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9. Seeking Reconciliation (Genesis 32:1-21)

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So Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim. Jacob sent messengers on ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the region of Edom. He commanded them, “This is what you must say to my lord Esau: ‘This is what your servant Jacob says: I have been staying with Laban until now. I have oxen, donkeys, sheep, and male and female servants. I have sent this message to inform my lord, so that I may find favor in your sight.’” The messengers returned to Jacob and said, “We went to your brother Esau. He is coming to meet you and has four hundred men with him.” Jacob was very afraid and upset. So he divided the people who were with him into two camps, as well as the flocks, herds, and camels. “If Esau attacks one camp,” he thought, “then the other camp will be able to escape.” Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, you said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will make you prosper.’ I am not worthy of all the faithful love you have shown your servant. With only my walking stick I crossed the Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, as well as the mothers with their children. But you said, ‘I will certainly make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand on the seashore, too numerous to count.’” Jacob stayed there that night. Then he sent as a gift to his brother Esau two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He entrusted them to his servants, who divided them into herds. He told his servants, “Pass over before me, and keep some distance between one herd and the next.” He instructed the servant leading the first herd, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? Whose herds are you driving?’ then you must say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They have been sent as a gift to my lord Esau. In fact Jacob himself is behind us.’” He also gave these instructions to the second and third servants, as well as all those who were following the herds, saying, “You must say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. You must also say, ‘In fact your servant Jacob is behind us.’” Jacob thought, “I will first appease him by sending a gift ahead of me. After that I will meet him. Perhaps he will accept me.” So the gifts were sent on ahead of him while he spent that night in the camp.

Genesis 32:1-21 (NET)

How should we seek reconciliation with those we’ve hurt or who have hurt us?

With the advent of sin, relationships became fractured. God prophesied to Adam and Eve that there would be discord in their marriage. Genesis 3:16 says, “You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.” Ultimately, their fractured marriage led to broken children. Their oldest son, Cain, killed the younger, Abel.

Similarly, Jacob came from a dysfunctional home. Isaac favored Esau and Rebekah favored Jacob. In order to secure the oldest son Esau’s birthright, Jacob dressed like his brother and deceived his blind father. Since then, Esau harbored resentment for his brother, and like Cain, plotted to kill him. In order to save Jacob’s life, Rebekah sent him away to Haran to find a wife. She promised that after Esau’s anger had subsided, she would send for him (Gen 27:43-45). Twenty years passed, Jacob gained two wives, twelve children, and great wealth while working for his uncle Laban. However, while working there, Jacob also had a difficult relationship with his uncle—so much so, that he ran away with his family at night. Laban searched after him for seven days and caught up to him. If God had not rebuked Laban in a dream, he might have harmed Jacob. Instead, they made a covenant before God to not hurt one another (Gen 31).

Jacob came from a dysfunctional family. His relationship with his brother was broken. His relationship with his uncle was unhealthy. In this narrative, after having some sort of reconciliation with Laban, Jacob now seeks to address his broken relationship with Esau.

Since we have sin in our hearts and live in a sinful world, we will commonly hurt others and others will hurt us. Therefore, we’ll commonly need to seek reconciliation. Christ said if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us (Matt 6:14). Also, in the Parable of the Merciless Servant, Christ taught that if we didn’t forgive, God would discipline us (Matt 18:35). In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter said if husbands aren’t considerate of their wives, it would hinder their prayers. Discord not only affects our relationships with others but also our relationship with God. Therefore, we must be quick to seek reconciliation, lest we give the devil a foothold in our lives and communities (Eph 4:26-27).

In Genesis 32:1-21, we see Jacob’s attempt to reconcile with his brother Esau, after twenty years of division. As we consider it, we’ll learn principles about seeking reconciliation with others.

Big Question: What principles can we discern about seeking reconciliation from Jacob’s attempt to reconcile with Esau in Genesis 32:1-21?

To Seek Reconciliation, We Must Continually Abide in God’s Presence

So Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he exclaimed, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.

Genesis 32:1-2

After Jacob made a peace treaty with Laban and continued on his way to Canaan, God’s angels met with him. We don’t know exactly what this looked like. But it must be noted that it doesn’t say that angels “appeared to him,” but that they “met him.” It seems that God’s angels, who are usually invisible, not only appeared but also ministered to Jacob—probably similar to how angels ministered to Christ after his temptation in the wilderness (Matt 4:11). Hebrews 1:14 says that angels are spirits sent by God to serve those who will inherit salvation. They are always ministering to believers, even when we don’t see them. Psalm 91:11-12 says, “For he will order his angels to protect you in all you do. They will lift you up in their hands, so you will not slip and fall on a stone.” Christ warned that nobody should despise God’s little ones—referring to young believers—because their angels always see the face of God (Matt 18:10). They are always waiting for God’s command to act on behalf of believers.

When God’s angels met with Jacob, he exclaimed, “This is the camp of God!” The word “camp” can also be translated “host,” “army,” or “group of people.”1 It seems that this was not just a few angels but a great number of them. Jacob names the place Mahanaim, which means “two camps.” Commentators are divided on what Mahanaim referred to. Some believe it referred to the camp of angels and Jacob’s camp. Others believe that Jacob encounters two camps of angels—a great angelic army. If there were two camps of angels, then it probably pictured how God was protecting Jacob from the two dangerous situations. He was protecting Jacob from Laban on one side and Esau on the other. We saw something similar when Elisha was surrounded by an army of Syrians and his servant was afraid. Therefore, Elisha prayed for God to open the eyes of his servant, so he could know the help God had provided. After the prayer, the servant sees fiery angels protecting them from the Syrians (2 Kings 6:15-17). Again, Scripture says this is not uncommon for believers. Psalm 34:7 says, “The Lord’s angel camps around the Lord’s loyal followers and delivers them.” In Job 1:10, Satan proclaims that God put a hedge of protection around Job—probably referring to angels. The Lord is always protecting and ministering to believers through angels.

It must be noticed that the first time Jacob encountered angels was when he left his home in Canaan for Haran (Gen 28). As he was obediently seeking a wife, God revealed himself through a heavenly ladder with angels ascending and descending upon it. Now, as Jacob is returning home, in obedience to God, he similarly experiences God’s grace. Often, we will encounter God’s presence and grace in the midst of our obedience as well. He gives us special mercies to encourage and strengthen us for the tasks ahead. Initially, God encouraged Jacob before he would enter a difficult twenty years of service with Laban. And now, God ministers to Jacob twice before he encounters Esau. God reveals angels to him and later appears to him in physical form as a wrestler (Gen 32:24-32)—all to encourage and empower Jacob for reconciliation.

Through meeting with God, God also gives grace to us. When we’re abiding in him, through his Word and prayer, we’ll find energy, strength, and desire to reconcile with others. When we’re not, we’ll often hold on to grudges and negative memories. The acts of flesh are “hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder” (Gal 5:20-21). However, the fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). These fruits only come when we live in the Spirit (Gal 5:16)—when we are abiding in God’s presence, even as Jacob was. He met with angels, representing God, and he also met with God, in human form, before he reconciled with Esau.

Are you continually meeting with God and receiving his ministry? Or are you walking in flesh? When we continually meet with God, he encourages us to seek reconciliation with others and empowers us to do so.

Application Question: How have you experienced desire and empowerment to seek reconciliation when abiding in God? How have you experienced hardness of heart towards others when neglecting time with God? Are there any people God is calling you to seek reconciliation with or to help reconcile?

To Seek Reconciliation, We Must Humble Ourselves and Give Up Our Rights

Jacob sent messengers on ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the region of Edom. He commanded them, “This is what you must say to my lord Esau: ‘This is what your servant Jacob says: I have been staying with Laban until now. I have oxen, donkeys, sheep, and male and female servants. I have sent this message to inform my lord, so that I may find favor in your sight.’”

Genesis 32:3-5

After meeting with the angels, Jacob seeks reconciliation with his estranged brother, who was living in the land of Seir. The fact that he knew where Esau was located probably meant he had received some word from home—though not telling him that Esau’s anger had subsided. Jacob sent messengers to Esau in order to seek his favor and reconciliation. He said this to Esau through his servants, “I have been staying with Laban until now. I have oxen, donkeys, sheep, and male and female servants. I have sent this message to inform my lord, so that I may find favor in your sight” (v. 4-5). This statement not only showed Jacob’s desire for reconciliation, but also the fact that he wasn’t laying claim to his right of leadership over Esau. Jacob called Esau, “Lord”—humbling himself before him as a servant. The fact that Jacob mentions his wealth means that he wasn’t trying to claim any of Esau’s wealth.

When seeking reconciliation with others, we must do the same. We must humble ourselves before them and serve them. In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul says this to a congregation struggling with discord (cf. Phil 4:2):

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.

Instead of selfishly claiming our rights, we should humble ourselves before others by seeking their desires over our own. The primary reason for most discord is simply pride—two people want their own way and won’t focus on the other’s viewpoint or desires. Therefore, the primary way that we seek reconciliation is by humbling ourselves before others and serving them.

When Jacob calls Esau, “Lord,” again, it implies that Jacob is his servant and that he won’t be exercising his right as Isaac’s heir. Something similar happened in Genesis 13, when Abraham’s and Lot’s servants were fighting with one another. Though Abraham was the patriarch, he humbles himself before Lot and says, “Take your pick of the land. Whatever direction you go, I will go the other.” Culturally Abraham had the right to the best of the land and spiritually he had the right, as God promised the land to him. This was also true with Jacob. Isaac gave the right of firstborn to Jacob, and God had promised that Esau would serve Jacob, even before they were born. However, Jacob doesn’t claim his rights—he simply humbles himself before his brother.

We must do the same if we are going to seek reconciliation. Yes, we might have the right to be angry. Yes, they did us wrong. However, we must humbly give up our rights and serve them. Paul said this to the Corinthians who were going to court and suing one another in 1 Corinthians 6:7. “The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” Again, Paul’s argument is, “Why not just humble yourself and give up your rights in order to seek reconciliation? Why not turn the other cheek like Christ taught?”

Sadly, instead of humbling ourselves and giving up our rights, many of us hold on to our pride and our rights—allowing, sometimes, years to go by without reconciliation, like Jacob did. During this time, he not only lacked a relationship with his brother, but it also cost him many years of intimacy with his father and mother. Our broken relationship with someone often negatively affects other relationships as well.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” To seek reconciliation, instead of responding in anger towards others, we must humble ourselves and speak and act gently towards them, like Jacob did, in hopes of reconciliation.

Are you holding on to your pride and offense—as you stay at odds with others? Or are you humbling yourself and giving up your rights in order to seek reconciliation? Humbling ourselves and giving up our rights doesn’t mean that we don’t at times seek justice or even peacefully separate, as seen with Jacob and Laban. But it does mean that we take the necessary steps to resolve the tension in a godly manner.

Application Question: In what ways is pride often the biggest culprit in discord? In what ways can we practically humble ourselves before others in order to seek reconciliation? Should we always give up our rights, including rights for justice? If not, when should we pursue our rights?

To Seek Reconciliation, We Must Realize that It Might Not Happen Immediately

The messengers returned to Jacob and said, “We went to your brother Esau. He is coming to meet you and has four hundred men with him.” Jacob was very afraid and upset. So he divided the people who were with him into two camps, as well as the flocks, herds, and camels. “If Esau attacks one camp,” he thought, “then the other camp will be able to escape.”

Genesis 32:6-8

Unfortunately, Jacob’s attempt at reconciliation doesn’t seem to be welcomed. Esau doesn’t give positive words to Jacob’s servants; he immediately gathers four hundred men and rides out to meet Jacob. When Jacob hears this, he is immediately overcome with fear (v. 7). He forgot that God had two armies of angels around him. All he could focus on was the small army coming towards him and his family. It seems that Jacob’s attempt for reconciliation failed, and Esau still intended to harm him. Therefore, Jacob separates his camp into two—thinking that if Esau attacked one, the other could still escape.

We don’t know for sure if Esau’s initial plan was to harm Jacob, but all the evidence seems to point towards that. Given their past history, gathering such a large contingent to meet Jacob, surely would be taken negatively. Also, Jacob’s mother never sent word that Esau’s intentions had changed, as she promised (Gen 27:43-45). Therefore, all the evidence pointed towards the fact that Esau was still harboring a deadly grudge.

Similarly, when we take steps towards reconciliation, we must also recognize that our attempts might not be met kindly. It’s often said that time heals all wounds, but that is not always true. Often time only more firmly cements the wounds, leaving people crippled. Often people go throughout life holding onto their unforgiveness and bitterness. Certain experiences like seeing the person, hearing about their prosperity, or hearing about a similar situation, only bring back all their raw emotions. For many when they talk about their experience many years later, it’s like it’s fresh—like it happened recently. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. However, God can, when we forgive and seek reconciliation—otherwise those wounds tend to cement.

Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” Whether others are ready to reconcile or not, we must do our part. This means forgiving them, praying for them, reaching out to them, and also waiting for them.

If we don’t realistically consider that our attempts at reconciliation might be rejected, we might get discouraged or give up when they are. Often reaching out is just the first step, then there are smaller ones that help build trust. God may still need to do more work in them or us first before reconciliation occurs. Either way, we can’t change people’s hearts, but we can do our part, while trusting God.

Application Question: Why does reconciliation often take time? In what ways have you experienced delays while pursuing full reconciliation? What should we do in the waiting season?

To Seek Reconciliation, We Must Labor in Prayer

Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, you said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will make you prosper.’ I am not worthy of all the faithful love you have shown your servant. With only my walking stick I crossed the Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, as well as the mothers with their children. But you said, ‘I will certainly make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand on the seashore, too numerous to count.’”

Genesis 32:9-12

After dividing into two camps, Jacob prays. Interestingly, this is Jacob’s first recorded prayer.2 Though God met with Jacob at Bethel (Gen 28), later gave him a dream calling him to return to Canaan (Gen 31), and allowed him to experience two camps of angels (Gen 32), Scripture never says Jacob prayed as a response. He might have made vows, named the places, and responded in obedience, but Scripture doesn’t say he prayed. Maybe, that was part of the reason that Jacob was very weak spiritually—prone to walk in the flesh instead of the Spirit. He had a weak prayer life, which led to bad decisions and deceitful practices. However, it was through prayer that God was going to give Jacob wisdom and help bring reconciliation.

No doubt, God orchestrated these circumstances to help Jacob grow in his prayer life. Laban was behind him and Esau was in front of him. There was nothing else to do but pray. Often this is how God trains us to pray as well. He allows us to go through a very difficult circumstance to create a deeper dependence upon God and prayer. Jacob was very afraid, and this fear, instead of leading him to hopelessness, led him to hope in God. God could deliver him.

There are five aspects to Jacob’s prayer from which we can learn:

  1. In prayer, we must pray Gods Word. In verse 9, Jacob declares how God said to him, “Return to your land and to your relatives and I will make you prosper,” and in verse 12, he reiterates God’s promise to make his children like the sands of the seashore. He essentially says to God, “You promised to take care of me and bless my family!” In the same way, we must pray God’s promises. God said that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Matt 28:20). He promises to meet all our needs, as we seek first his kingdom (Matt 6:33). He promises us peace, as we reject anxiety and live in thanksgiving and prayer (Phil 4:6-7). He promises to give us wisdom if we ask for it (Jam 1:5). If we are going to pray effectively, we must know God’s Word. The very reason many of us are weak in prayer is because we don’t know it. God’s Word prompts and empowers prayer. Are you living in God’s Word?
  2. In prayer, we must humble ourselves before the Lord and depend on his grace. Jacob says, “I am not worthy of all the faithful love you have shown your servant” (v. 10). In Luke 18:9-14, Christ gave the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Before God, the Pharisee boasted about his righteousness, but the tax collector confessed his sin and unworthiness. Christ said the tax collector went home justified but the Pharisee did not (Lk 18:14). Sadly, many of our prayers are unproductive because they are rooted in pride and what we think we deserve, instead of recognizing God’s grace—his unmerited favor upon sinners. Many people have angry prayers that blame God, as they don’t recognize their own sin and guilt. The humble person receives God’s blessing and the prideful person only receives God’s discipline. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jam 4:6). Are you humbling yourself before God or pridefully claiming what you think you deserve?
  3. In prayer, we must declare Gods faithfulness. In verse 10, Jacob declares, “With only my walking stick I crossed the Jordan, but now I have become two camps.” When he left Canaan for Haran, he had nothing. Now his people were like two armies. God had truly blessed him, and Jacob affirms that in prayer. Psalm 107:2 says, “Let those delivered by the Lord speak out, those whom he delivered from the power of the enemy.” In fact, many of the Psalms are simply God’s people recounting God’s past works—he delivered Israel from Egypt, split the Red Sea, conquered their enemies, etc. We would do well to do this often in prayer, as it honors God and strengthens our faith. We must remember times when he delivered us, strengthened us, and used us for his glory. In one sentence, Jacob encapsulates twenty years of God’s faithfulness. When he began following God, he had nothing and now he had much. Are you giving God thanks in your prayers—remembering his faithful works?
  4. In prayer, we must bring our petitions before the Lord. In verse 11, he says, “Rescue me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau.” Jacob brings a specific petition before the Lord—asking for deliverance from Esau. Similarly, when coming to God, we must bring our petitions. The Lord’s Prayer is six petitions—for God’s name to be hallowed, his kingdom to come, his will to be done, our daily bread, forgiveness, and protection. Therefore, in prayer, we must continually bring our requests. We should not be timid in bringing them before God for he loves to bless his children. James says we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). This means that there are many good things we don’t have, simply because we’ve never asked God for them. Are you bringing your petitions before God?
  5. In prayer, we must honestly share our thoughts and emotions with God. In verse 12, Jacob says, “for I am afraid he will come and attack me, as well as the mothers with their children.” Many of the Psalms are just like this—God’s people pouring out their fears, doubts, complaints, confusions, and praises before God. Typically, we only share things with people who we trust and know us well, because we’re afraid of what people will do with our secrets. However, with God, he already knows our hearts and is trustworthy, so he’s the perfect person to share with. We must continually bring our thoughts and raw emotions before the Lord. As we do this, we allow God to transform our hearts. He turns our fears into peace, our doubts into faith, and our anger into love. Sadly, many of us miss this ministry, as we rarely honestly share with God. First Peter 5:7 says, “Cast your cares before the Lord for he cares for you” (paraphrase). Are you bringing your worries and anxieties before the Lord? We should because he cares and has power to heal our hearts, fix our situations, and restore our relationships. Are you being transparent and honest with the Lord or hiding from him?

In order to seek reconciliation and deliverance, like Jacob, we must labor in prayer. Only God can transform us and those we care about. He is the reconciler. He sent Christ to die for our sins to reconcile us both to God and one another. Reconciliation is God’s business, and therefore, we must continually come before him, asking for grace over our relationships.

Are you allowing difficult relationships (and situations) to draw you to prayer? That is one of God’s purposes in allowing difficulties to happen. His grace is available to those who humbly ask for it (James 4:6).

Application Question: What aspect of prayer stood out to you most in Jacob’s prayer and why? How is God calling you to grow in your prayer life?

To Seek Reconciliation, We Must Bless Those Separated from Us

Jacob stayed there that night. Then he sent as a gift to his brother Esau two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He entrusted them to his servants, who divided them into herds. He told his servants, “Pass over before me, and keep some distance between one herd and the next.” He instructed the servant leading the first herd, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? Whose herds are you driving?’ then you must say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They have been sent as a gift to my lord Esau. In fact Jacob himself is behind us.’” He also gave these instructions to the second and third servants, as well as all those who were following the herds, saying, “You must say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. You must also say, ‘In fact your servant Jacob is behind us.’” Jacob thought, “I will first appease him by sending a gift ahead of me. After that I will meet him. Perhaps he will accept me.” So the gifts were sent on ahead of him while he spent that night in the camp.

Genesis 32:13-21

Next, Jacob seeks to pacify Esau with gifts. It is an ingenious plan. He sends over 550 animals, in three separate caravans, spaced evenly apart. 3 With the passing of each caravan, the servants would say to Esau, “They belong to your servant Jacob. They have been sent as a gift to my lord Esau. In fact Jacob himself is behind us” (v. 18). The hope was that these gifts and gentle words would soften Esau’s heart. Some commentators think that Jacob is not trusting God. He has prayed, but now, he is acting in the flesh. However, it seems that Jacob’s actions were acts of faith—inspired by his prayer. Matthew Henry said, “When we have prayed to God for any mercy, we must second our prayers with our endeavors; else, instead of trusting god, we tempt him.”4 Certainly, there are times when we should pray and simply wait to see God’s glory, but most times, it shows a lack of faith to not act. We should pray for a job and also apply for one. We should pray for reconciliation but also show acts of kindness in seeking it, which is exactly what Jacob does.

Similarly, if we are going to seek reconciliation, we must do so by showing acts of kindness to the offended party. In Romans 12:19-21, Paul said:

Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Instead of seeking vengeance or fighting for our rights, we must overcome evil with good. We should pray for our enemies and kindly serve them. As we do this continually, it will often change their hearts towards us. The acts of kindness overcome evil. This is exactly what Jacob did to Esau. In Genesis 33, eventually, they embrace each other and weep together. Through Jacob’s trust in God, humility, prayer, and acts of kindness, God changed Esau’s heart.

How are you responding to those who have hurt you or you’ve hurt? Are you overcoming evil with good or returning evil for evil? If we are going to pursue reconciliation, like Jacob, we must in faith and obedience to God’s Word, bless those separated from us.

Application Question: What types of acts of kindness should we show towards others to overcome evil with good and to seek reconciliation? In what ways have you seen God bring reconciliation through this method?

Conclusion

How should we seek reconciliation with others?

  1. To Seek Reconciliation, We Must Continually Abide in God’s Presence
  2. To Seek Reconciliation, We Must Humble Ourselves and Give Up Our Rights
  3. To Seek Reconciliation, We Must Realize that It Might Not Happen Immediately
  4. To Seek Reconciliation, We Must Labor in Prayer
  5. To Seek Reconciliation, We Must Bless Those Separated from Us

Copyright © 2018 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Be authentic (pp. 53–54). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

2 Boice, J. M. (1998). Genesis: an expositional commentary (p. 811). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

3 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (p. 399). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

4 Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible, Genesis 32. Accessed 5/4/18 from https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/genesis/32.html

Related Topics: Character Study, Christian Life, Relationships

10. What Is God’s Purpose in Our Trials? (Genesis 32:22-32)

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During the night Jacob quickly took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream along with all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not defeat Jacob, he struck the socket of his hip so the socket of Jacob’s hip was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” “I will not let you go,” Jacob replied, “unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” He answered, “Jacob.” “No longer will your name be Jacob,” the man told him, “but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” “Why do you ask my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, explaining, “Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived.” The sun rose over him as he crossed over Penuel, but he was limping because of his hip. That is why to this day the Israelites do not eat the sinew which is attached to the socket of the hip, because he struck the socket of Jacob’s hip near the attached sinew.

Genesis 32:22-32 (NET)

What is God’s purpose in our trials and struggles?

In this context, Jacob is experiencing many difficulties. After working for his uncle Laban for twenty years, he flees in the middle of the night with his family and possessions. Laban was a difficult employer and relative. He deceived Jacob many times. After Jacob left with his family, Laban caught up to him with a small band, probably, planning to harm Jacob. However, God warned Laban in a dream to not speak anything good or bad to Jacob. After meeting, Jacob and Laban made a nonaggression pact—to not harm one another (Gen 31).

Right after this pact, Genesis 32:1-2 says that a large army of angels met with Jacob. Jacob calls the place Mahanaim, which means two camps. There were probably two angelic armies. God sent them, no doubt, to encourage and strengthen Jacob. But, they were also there to show Jacob that God had protected him and his family and was going to continue to protect him.

Probably motivated from his encounter with God’s angels, Jacob decides to reconcile a twenty-year, broken relationship with Esau, his brother. Previously, Jacob had swindled Esau out of his birthright, and in response, Esau wanted to kill him. It was that fractured relationship that initially prompted Jacob to seek refuge with Laban in Haran and to find a wife. After contacting Esau and seeking favor with him, Esau responds by coming to meet Jacob with four hundred men on horses. Jacob, probably, rightly assumes Esau is still angry and wants to take his life.

Jacob sends three caravans of gifts before him to try to appease Esau. Then in this text, after a night of no sleep, he sends his family across the Jabbok river. Because of the powerful rushing waters, this would have been very dangerous to do at night; however, having one more barrier between Esau and his family seemed less dangerous.

After sending them across the river, Jacob stays on the other side—probably to pray and spend time with God. Then while alone, he is attacked by a man in the middle of the night. This man is God, in angelic form, wrestling with Jacob (cf. Hos 12:3-4, Gen 32:30). Sometimes this text is taught with a focus on us wrestling with God in prayer. However, it must be noticed in verse 24 that the man wrestled with Jacob and not vice versa. Initially, God was seeking something from Jacob, and then towards the end of the night, after Jacob was, essentially, defeated when his hip was dislocated, Jacob seeks a blessing from the man.

What is happening in this text? First, it must be noticed that this bares some similarities with how God appeared as a man at other times in Scripture. With Abraham, who was a pilgrim from Ur dwelling in Canaan, God appeared as a pilgrim and went to his house (Gen 18). With Joshua, who was Israel’s general, God appeared as a soldier (Josh 5:13-15). And here, with Jacob, whose name means “heel-grabber,” who had tried to trip people up like a wrestler throughout his life (i.e. his brother, father, and uncle), God appeared as a wrestler. As Jacob had previously tried to wrestle things from others, God wanted something from Jacob. Throughout his life, God had always been wrestling with Jacob—seeking his submission, obedience, and trust. Psalm 18:26 says, “You prove to be reliable to one who is blameless, but you prove to be deceptive to one who is perverse.” Since Jacob was a wrestler by nature, God met Jacob as one.1

In this specific circumstance, as Jacob anticipates an encounter with murderous Esau, it seems that God’s wrestling with Jacob was symbolic of what was happening in the natural world (cf. 32:28 and 33:4). Previously, God showed Jacob how, in the spiritual world, angels were protecting him in his encounter with Laban (Gen 32:1-2). But now God is showing him that though he is in turmoil, awaiting murderous Esau, it was God who was actually allowing the turmoil in his life. Through the circumstances, God was wrestling with Jacob to bring changes in his life. The same is true with us. We may never physically see God or his angels working behind our circumstances, but they are there. God particularly uses trials and struggles for transformative purposes in our lives (Heb 12:7).

One person said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures but shouts at us in our trials.” A.W. Tozer said, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.”2 F. B. Meyer said,

This is life; a long wrestle against the love of God, which longs to make us royal. As the years go on, we begin to cling where once we struggled; and as the morn of heaven breaks, we catch glimpses of the Angel-face of love…3

Therefore, as we consider God’s wrestling with Jacob, we learn principles about God’s purposes in trials and how we should respond to them. Jacob had a struggle with Esau, but behind this struggle was a struggle with God, who was seeking to transform Jacob’s life.

Big Question: What principles can we learn about God’s purposes in our trials and how we should respond to them?

God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Focus on Him

During the night Jacob quickly took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream along with all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

Genesis 32:22-24

Though the NET says Jacob “quickly took his wives,” the NIV says Jacob “got up” and the ESV says he “arose.” It seems that Jacob had already gone to bed but couldn’t sleep. He sends his family and possessions across the river but stays by himself, most likely to think or pray.

Jacob oversaw a large camp of people. In fact, in his earlier prayer, he calls it “two camps” (Gen 32:10). He had two wives, twelve children, and enough flocks to spare over 550 of them as gifts to Esau. There was always plenty of work, plans, and decisions to be made, which was good. However, it probably had a tendency to crowd out God and prayer. It was when Jacob was intentionally alone that he could really focus on God, which was probably one of God’s purposes in the trial.

This is also true with us. Busyness and life circumstances tend to hinder our time with God. It is often through trials that God encourages us to separate from the crowd and busyness to focus on him. Again, as mentioned, it seems this wrestling was symbolic of what was happening in the natural world. Behind Jacob’s trial with Esau was God’s wrestling with Jacob. God wanted to do something in Jacob’s life through this trial, but in order to do it, God had to get him alone and appear to him in a dramatic way.

Sadly, many of us spend our time focusing on “Esau” in our trial by being consumed with people or circumstances, and therefore, missing God’s hand in it. We miss his “reaching” out to us, as he reached out to Jacob. If we are going to respond well to our trials, we must see God in them and his desire to draw us to himself and for us to intentionally choose to focus on him. Our trials are not accidental or haphazard, but part of God’s sovereign plan to make us into his image (cf. Eph 1:11, Rom 8:28-29). We must focus on him—through prayer, studying his Word, and obedience. God desires to change us and if we need to go through a trial to draw our focus to him, then he is willing to allow one. In this circumstance, God had Jacob all alone, and it was time to do work in his life. God desires to get us alone and bring change in us as well.

Are you drawing near God in the midst of your trial? Are you seeking his face? Is the discipline of solitude—being alone with God—a regular part of your life? Don’t let busyness choke out your time with God. When we do that, sometimes a trial is the only way for God to get our attention and our obedience. Psalm 46:10 (NIV) says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Application Question: Why is it so easy to let busyness crowd God out of our lives? How has God used trials to help you focus on him more? How do you practice the discipline of solitude—daily getting alone with God? How is God calling you to grow in this discipline?

God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Develop Perseverance

So Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

Genesis 22:34

After the man grabs Jacob, they wrestle till day break. This is a phenomenal task. How did Jacob last so long? Wrestling is grueling. Six minutes of intense wrestling will wear most people out. But Jacob wrestles all night—maybe for six or seven hours. This is a greater workload than running a marathon, which for most takes four to five hours—elite runners can do it in two. From this alone, we can tell that God provided a special grace for Jacob to continue throughout the night. But then, we must ask the question, “Why did God provide grace for Jacob to wrestle so long? Also, we must ask, “If God’s primary purpose was to defeat Jacob, why did he not just end it quickly?” We know the man was powerful enough to do this. When it nears daybreak, the man simply touches Jacob’s hip and it dislocates. Some versions say it shrank. He could have won at any time. Why does he wrestle with Jacob all night and potentially provide grace so it could continue?

It seems one of the purposes was to teach Jacob perseverance—though he, no doubt, felt like quitting. Similarly, God allowed Jacob to go through twenty years of a difficult relationship with Laban. He was tricked and cheated many times. God could have ended that trial at any time, but he waited twenty years to do so. Of course, there were many things God was doing through Jacob’s trial with Laban, and there were many things God was doing as he wrestled with Jacob throughout the night. But one of the main things God was doing was developing perseverance in him.

God often does the same thing with us. He provides grace for us to continue under difficult circumstances and ends the situation at the proper time. He does this to teach us perseverance. Consider the following verses:

And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.

James 1:4

Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope.

Romans 5:3-4

God uses endurance or perseverance to complete us—meaning to make us mature. When we persevere—meaning to bear up under a heavy weight—it develops our character and helps us trust in God.

This happens in parenting all the time. A parent puts a child into a sport or club, but when the child encounters difficulty, he immediately wants to quit. If the parent allows the child to quit, quitting will often become part of his character. When circumstances get tough, he will want to quit relationships, jobs, hobbies, etc., throughout his life. He may never develop perseverance. But wise parents understand the benefit of perseverance. If the child continues, even though he emotionally wants to quit, he will develop the ability to persevere in the various difficulties of life—in the work force, marriage, parenting, church, etc.

God isn’t trying to develop spoiled children who want to quit every time they go through something hard. He is trying to develop mature children who not only can persevere but also can help others persevere through the difficulties of life. He develops ministers from his trials.

Are you persevering in your trial? Often like David, we have to pray, “Renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NASB). Lord, help us to stand, even when we feel like quitting!

Application Question: Why is perseverance such an important virtue to develop? In what ways is God calling you to persevere in your current season? What are some disciplines that help with developing a “steadfast spirit” while going through trials (Ps 51:10)?

God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Recognize Our Weakness and Need for Him

When the man saw that he could not defeat Jacob, he struck the socket of his hip so the socket of Jacob’s hip was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” “I will not let you go,” Jacob replied, “unless you bless me.” …

Genesis 32:25-26

While Jacob and the man wrestled, Jacob would not give up. Therefore, God touched Jacob’s hip and dislocated it. In wrestling, the hips and legs are where the strength is. That’s why wrestlers typically have very muscular lower bodies. When the hip was dislocated, the fight was over. Jacob lost.

God often does this with us as well. It is often our strengths that keep us away from God and obedience to him. We feel competent for our work load, relationships, future, etc.—therefore, we are not as dependent upon God as we should be, if at all. So God often has to touch our strengths—our places of confidence—to help us depend on him. For some, he touches their intelligence, others their body, others their finances, others their family or friendships. Wherever our pride, strength, and focus are, outside of God, God often touches it, so we see our weakness.

To the Church of Laodicea, God said:

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked

Revelation 3:15-17

The church had wealth, thought they were right before God, and that they didn’t need anything. This created a spiritual lukewarmness—they weren’t passionate about God at all. However, God said they were really “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17). They didn’t know how weak they were, so God was going to “vomit” them out of his mouth (3:16)—which probably referred to some type of judgment or trial. The trial was going to show them how weak they really were and how they needed God.

Often God does the same to us. He has to touch us, and sometimes injure us, so we know our weakness. Previously, we didn’t feel like we needed to read God’s Word, go to church or small group, pray, or serve, but after our trial, we realize that we need God desperately. That’s what God was doing to Jacob.

In fact, from this point on, Jacob was no longer wrestling, all he could do was cling to the man and not let go. All he could do was hold onto God—he barely had enough strength with one leg to hold himself up. God does the same to us. Through trials and the pain experienced in them, he helps us cling to him.

With Paul, God allowed him to experience a demonic thorn in the flesh which made him weak. We don’t know exactly what it was, but most believe it was a sickness. When Paul asked for God to remove it, God replied, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). As Paul was weak, he also began to cling to God more and therefore experience power in his weakness. In response to this, Paul said,

So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9b-10

In our trials, God often touches our perceived strength, so we can know our true weakness and cling to God’s power. Where are your strengths outside of God located? How have you experienced God’s touch and therefore the revealing of your weakness?

Application Question: What are your areas of strength which you have a tendency to neglect God in or because of? In what ways have you experienced God touching your strength, so that you cling more dearly to him and experience his power?

God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Grow in Prayer

Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” “I will not let you go,” Jacob replied, “unless you bless me.” …

Genesis 32:26

As mentioned, at this point, Jacob is no longer wrestling in his strength, he is simply clinging to God in weakness. While doing this, Jacob begins to pray. The man says, “Let me go,” but Jacob replies, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” This sounds like a command, but it really wasn’t. Jacob had lost. He was defeated. Hosea 12:3-4, while summarizing Jacob’s life, describes Jacob’s request this way: “In the womb he attacked his brother; in his manly vigor he struggled with God. He struggled with an angel and prevailed; he wept and begged for his favor. He found God at Bethel, and there he spoke with him!”

Jacob weeps and begs for this man’s favor. He is in pain and at this man’s mercy. He cries out, “No, I won’t let you go. Please bless me.” We don’t know at what point Jacob discerned he was wrestling with God. Maybe, he knew immediately, but if not, he certainly knew when the man easily dislocated his hip. Later, he calls the place Peniel because he had seen God’s face and survived (v. 30).

Jacob was not a man of prayer. Jacob’s narrative begins in Genesis 25; however, we never see him pray until Genesis 32. When he hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men, he prays. He claims God’s promises of prospering him and making his descendants numerous (v. 9-12). Again, he prays as he wrestles with God (v. 26). Jacob prays twice in this one chapter. He humbly begs the Lord with tears for a blessing.

Throughout Jacob’s narrative, desiring God’s blessing has been his greatest attribute. The problem is he always sought it the wrong way. He swindled his brother and deceived his father for it. When he married—a crucial part of his receiving Abraham’s blessing—he married two women instead of one, which wasn’t part of God’s perfect will for his life. Of course, his circumstances were not ideal, as Laban deceived him; however, that was no excuse to accept the deception and live in sin. Jacob desired God’s blessing but always sought it the wrong way. But now, God was training him through trials how to receive the blessing properly—it was through laboring in prayer. When Esau was going to receive the blessing instead of him, he should have prayed. When Laban tricked him by giving him Leah, he should have prayed. Prayer was the missing ingredient in his life. God was aiming to correct that through this trial.

In the same way, God often trains us to labor in prayer through our trials. Before experiencing trials, we spent little time in prayer. We prayed at meals and before bed, but we rarely, if at all, isolated ourselves to spend quality time in prayer. Through weakening and breaking Jacob, God was training him to become a man of prayer and not just of action.

Are you daily drawing near the Lord in prayer? Are you allowing trials to help you seek God’s blessing—his deliverance, his empowerment, and his direction?

Application Question: Why do most people struggle with their prayer lives and being faithful in it? What are some strategies that might help people pray more often and better? How is God calling you to cling to God in prayer and seek his blessing? What blessings are you currently seeking God for?

God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Recognize and Confess Our Sin

The man asked him, “What is your name?” He answered, “Jacob.”

Genesis 32:27

After Jacob asked for a blessing, the man replies, “What is your name?” Obviously, God knew the answer to that, since he is omniscient. When God asks a question in Scripture, it is not to gain information. It is typically for the other’s benefit and realization. When God asked Adam if he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it was not because God didn’t know the answer. It was because he wanted Adam to recognize his sin and confess it.

When Jacob answered by sharing his name, it was meant to help Jacob realize, he had lived out his name. He had been deceitfully wrestling with people his whole life. His name meant “deceiver” or “heel grabber.” It has a wrestling connotation to it. He deceived his brother, father, and uncle. God was using the trial to help Jacob see his sin and be free from it.

When Jacob answered God with his name, in his heart, it appears to have been a form of confession. He was saying:

I have been a deceiver. When my father asked who I was, I said, “Esau.” I deceived him. When you told me to leave Laban, I didn’t trust you. I deceived Laban by quickly leaving in the middle of the night. Laban’s and Esau’s seeking to harm me is all my fault. I have been a Jacob. Forgive me and please bless me.

It’s the same for us. God often uses trials to help us recognize our failures and repent of them. In Deuteronomy 8:2 (NIV), Moses said the reason God led Israel into the wilderness was to reveal what was in their hearts—to see if they would obey God. He said, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”

What does our response in trials say about our hearts? Do we run away from God or to him in our trials? Do we run to some addiction, idol, or sin before God—a relationship, work, alcohol, lying, complaining, or self-pity?

We tend to think of our enemies as our circumstances or certain people. However, our biggest enemy is our hearts—their love for sin and lack of trust in God. Therefore, by God’s grace, he allows trials to reveal the sin in our hearts, so we can repent of it. First John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.”

Are you confessing your sin in the midst of your trial, or are you clinging to it instead of God? Are you fighting with God—holding on to your independence and self-reliance—instead of laying everything down to cling to him?

Application Question: If our sinful tendencies typically show up in trials (lying, complaining, addictions, love for the world, lack of trust in God, etc.), what sinful tendencies of yours often show up in the midst of trials? Are there specific ones that you are struggling to fully repent of?

God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is to Change Our Character

“No longer will your name be Jacob,” the man told him, “but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed.”

Genesis 32:28

After Jacob told God his name, God renamed him “Israel.” Naming represented at least two things in that culture: ownership and a change of character or destiny. Sometimes kings would rename their subjects. For example, Daniel and his three Hebrew friends were all given Babylonian names when they became subjects of Babylon. Jacob, who commonly lived for himself, was now, even more so, going to live for God. In fact, many translate the name “Israel” as “God rules,” “God commands,” “God prevails,” or “God strives.” Those who prefer this translation say every time the name of God is coupled with a verb, God is always the subject.4 For example, Daniel means “God judges” not “he judges God,” and Samuel means “God heard” not “he heard God.” Others translate “Israel” as “strives with God” or “prevails with God.” They would take this meaning by how the narrator explains the naming. Jacob had fought with God and men and prevailed (v. 28). Others translate it “Prince of God.”

How did Jacob prevail with God? Certainly, he didn’t win the battle. By the end of it, his hip was dislocated, and he was clinging to the angel. In fact, after Jacob named the site Peniel, he said he had seen God’s face and “survived” (v. 30). He barely survived—he was not the victor. Therefore, in what way, did Jacob prevail with God? In this way, previously, Jacob operated in his strength—deceiving and manipulating people and situations—but, with the angel, he succeeded in receiving the blessing, as he cried out in his weakness and prayer. This would be the increased means by which Jacob would achieve victory in the future. When the narrator talked about “prevailing with men,” this was about his future. God would deliver Jacob from Esau (33:4). By weakness and prayer, Jacob found success.

Jacob’s battle and renaming marked a character change in Jacob. He would still, at times, operate in his flesh by depending on his fleshly wisdom instead of God’s. However, depending on God would begin to identify him more.

In the same way, that is what God aims to achieve through our trials. He wants to change us more into his image. Again, Romans 5:3-4 says we rejoice in tribulation because it produces perseverance and then character. Our character changes as we learn perseverance in our trials, patience with people, love for the unlovable, and trust in God, rather than doubting him. God doesn’t waste our trials but uses them to the best end.

Application Question: How have you grown in character, as you’ve experienced past trials? What aspects of your character do you believe God is working on now through the trials or difficulties you’re experiencing?

God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Know God Better

Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” “Why do you ask my name?” the man replied.

Genesis 32:29

After being renamed, Jacob politely asked to know the man’s name. But the man simply replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Why does the man not answer Jacob? The reason seems to be that Jacob already knew who he was. Jacob knew the man was God and that is why he named the place Peniel—”face of God” (v. 30).

Similarly, one of God’s primary purposes in trials is to help us know him more by revealing different characteristics of himself. In Genesis 12, when Abraham was called to leave his home and family, God revealed himself as Yahweh—the covenant God. In leaving his home and family, he would learn that God was faithful—he was a God of covenant. In Genesis 17, when God told Abraham he was going to have a child in his old age, God’s name was El Shaddai. He was the all-powerful God—the one who does miracles. Likewise, God revealed himself as Yahweh to Jacob at Bethel when he first left his father’s house. Yahweh protected him from Laban and was protecting him now from Esau. Jacob knew his name and was experiencing the covenant God in a more intimate way, as he wrestled with him and received his blessing.

In the same way, when we go through trials, one of God’s purposes is for us to know him more—to know his name and character, to know that he is faithful, loving, just, merciful, and all-powerful.

Application Question: What aspect(s) of God’s character has he been revealing to you recently through Scripture or your trials?

God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is to Bless Us

Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” “Why do you ask my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

Genesis 32:29

After renaming Jacob, the man blesses him. We don’t know exactly what this entailed. Most likely, the angel restated the promises of Abraham and Isaac over him, just as God had done at Bethel (Gen 28). God was going to make him into a great people and prosper him. Certainly, this blessing also included protection, as was needed in his current situation with Esau.

Similarly, God’s purpose in our trials is to bless us. This means not only changing our character and allowing us to know God more, but also much more. With Joseph, after losing his family and experiencing slavery and imprisonment, God exalted him to second-in-command over Egypt, where he could save many people including his family. With Job, after he lost his family, health, and career, ultimately God restored double of all he lost. With Daniel, who was taken away from his home and family to Babylon, God favored him and placed him in government positions to bless the nations.

Through being faithful in trials, God promises that he will expand our ministry to others, as he did with Joseph and Daniel. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, Paul said:

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow toward us, so also our comfort through Christ overflows to you.

In our trials, as we seek the Lord, we experience his comfort, so we can in turn comfort others with it. It has often been said that our misery often becomes our ministry. We minister out of our sufferings and the comfort received during them.

If we’re faithful in our sufferings, God not only blesses us with an expanded ministry, but also promises to bless us richly in heaven. Consider the following verses:

Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.

Matthew 5:11-12

God promises eternal rewards as we faithfully endure trials. We must remember that God has good plans for us, even though it may seem hard to believe when encountering difficulties. Through Christ’s sufferings, he paid the penalty for our sins, so that anyone who trusts in him can be saved (John 3:16). He was also made perfect through his sufferings, so he could have an eternal ministry as our high priest—sympathizing with our weaknesses, praying for us, and giving grace in our time of need (cf. Heb 2:10, 4:15-16, 7:25). He also has been given a name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil 2:6-11). God’s plan is to bless those who faithfully suffer.

Are you trusting that God has good plans for you in your suffering? We need to realize this if we are going to stand. Those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on the wings of eagles, run and not grow weary, and walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31). We must trust that God’s ultimate plan is to bless us and not hurt us.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced God’s blessing after faithfully going through a trial? How can we, in faith, hold on to this truth while suffering?

God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Become Better Witnesses

So Jacob named the place Peniel, explaining, “Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived.” The sun rose over him as he crossed over Penuel, but he was limping because of his hip. That is why to this day the Israelites do not eat the sinew which is attached to the socket of the hip, because he struck the socket of Jacob’s hip near the attached sinew.

Genesis 32:30-32

After this experience, Jacob named the place Peniel, which means “face of God.”5 Since his limp continued after this experience, Israelites chose to not eat the meat around the hip, in remembrance of Jacob’s encounter with God. This is still observed by some orthodox Jews today.

What this implies is that Jacob shared this experience. He shared it with his wives, children, and servants. It was passed down by the Jews, first through oral history and then through Scripture. He shared his wrestling experience at Peniel with others. His injury and the place it happened were both memorials of God’s work.

Similarly, though trials may be hard, discouraging, and, at times, shameful, they are not our stories to keep to ourselves. They are God’s stories of how he protected us, challenged us, helped us grow, and even used our wounds for his glory. We must share them with others, so God receives honor. Also, it is by sharing them with others that we receive full healing and often process exactly what God has done in our lives. James 5:16 says, “So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.”

Sadly, many never share their stories and therefore never experience God’s grace. They don’t experience God’s healing, don’t allow God to heal others through them, and therefore, rob God of his glory.

Don’t keep your trials to yourself! Share them with others. Allow God to heal you, heal others, and glorify himself. Psalm 107:2 (NIV) says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.”

Application Question: Why do people often not share their testimonies with others? How can we grow in transparency in order to receive healing, help others heal, and give glory to God?

Conclusion

As we consider God’s wrestling with Jacob, it was a picture of his current trial with Esau. Often, we only see our natural circumstances and forget there is a spiritual reality that oversees them. In this story, God pulls back the curtain: Jacob’s struggle was not only with Esau, it was also with God and with himself. God wanted to change Jacob through his difficulties. God had always been wrestling with Jacob, seeking to get his will done in his life. Similarly, God has always been lovingly wrestling with us, seeking our submission to his will and kingdom.

What is God’s purpose in our trials and struggles?

  1. God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Focus on Him
  2. God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Develop Perseverance
  3. God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Recognize Our Weakness and Need for Him
  4. God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Grow in Prayer
  5. God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Recognize and Confess Our Sin
  6. God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is to Change Our Character
  7. God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Know God Better
  8. God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is to Bless Us
  9. God’s Purpose in Our Trials Is for Us to Become Better Witnesses

Copyright © 2018 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Be authentic (p. 58). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Be authentic (p. 58). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

3 Meyer, F.B.. Jacob: Wrestling with God (Kindle Locations 1082-1084). Kindle Edition.

4 Boice, J. M. (1998). Genesis: an expositional commentary (pp. 819–820). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

5 Accessed 5/9/2018 from https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/peniel/

Related Topics: Character Study, Christian Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

11. Living Out Our New Identity in Christ (Genesis 33)

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Jacob looked up and saw that Esau was coming along with four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two female servants. He put the servants and their children in front, with Leah and her children behind them, and Rachel and Joseph behind them. But Jacob himself went on ahead of them, and he bowed toward the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, embraced him, hugged his neck, and kissed him. Then they both wept. When Esau looked up and saw the women and the children, he asked, “Who are these people with you?” Jacob replied, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” The female servants came forward with their children and bowed down. Then Leah came forward with her children and they bowed down. Finally Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed down. Esau then asked, “What did you intend by sending all these herds to meet me?” Jacob replied, “To find favor in your sight, my lord.” But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother. Keep what belongs to you.” “No, please take them,” Jacob said. “If I have found favor in your sight, accept my gift from my hand. Now that I have seen your face and you have accepted me, it is as if I have seen the face of God. Please take my present that was brought to you, for God has been generous to me and I have all I need.” When Jacob urged him, he took it. Then Esau said, “Let’s be on our way! I will go in front of you.” But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are young, and that I have to look after the sheep and cattle that are nursing their young. If they are driven too hard for even a single day, all the animals will die. Let my lord go on ahead of his servant. I will travel more slowly, at the pace of the herds and the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.” So Esau said, “Let me leave some of my men with you.” “Why do that?” Jacob replied. “My lord has already been kind enough to me.” So that same day Esau made his way back to Seir. But Jacob traveled to Succoth where he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was called Succoth. After he left Paddan Aram, Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem in the land of Canaan, and he camped near the city. Then he purchased the portion of the field where he had pitched his tent; he bought it from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of money. There he set up an altar and called it “The God of Israel is God.”

Genesis 33 (NET)

How can we live out our new identity in Christ?

In Genesis 32:22-32, Jacob wrestled with God, and after wrestling, God gave him a new name, Israel, which means “God commands,” “God prevails,” or “the one who prevails with God.” The changing of his name meant a change of character and destiny. Previously Jacob trusted in his wisdom and strength instead of God’s, but now he was to be marked by obeying God’s commands and relying on God’s strength instead of his own.

However, as we continue studying Jacob’s narrative, we certainly see growth, but we also see him continually fall back into old habits. He wasn’t the same old Jacob, but he didn’t always live like Israel either. In fact, it’s interesting to consider that when God gave Abraham a new name in Genesis 17, he is always called by that name in the Genesis narrative from that point on. But for Jacob, after being named Israel, the narrator, Moses, calls him Jacob twice more than Israel throughout his narrative (Gen 33-50).1 Since the Holy Spirit inspired every part of Scripture, we can have no doubt that this was intentional. Jacob, though experiencing God and being renamed, commonly didn’t live out his new identity. Arthur Pink said this: “It is one thing to be privileged with a special visitation from or manifestation of God to us, but it is quite another to live in the power of it.”2

Sadly, this is commonly true for us. As believers, we have been called children of God, saints, co-heirs with Christ, co-workers with God, and new creations. Scripture also teaches us that our old man, our old nature, died with Christ and that we are no longer slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness (Rom 6). However, many of us live as slaves of sin instead of slaves of righteousness and as sinners instead of saints. We look like Jacob instead of Israel.

How can we live out our new identity in Christ? As Jacob meets with Esau, it is clear that he is not the same man that he was, but at the same time, he is not who he should have been. As we consider Jacob’s struggle to live as Israel, we’ll learn more about how to live out our new identity in Christ.

Big Question: What can we learn about living out our identity in Christ, as we consider how Jacob struggled to live out his new name in Genesis 33?

To Live Out Our New Identity, We Must Be Careful of Our Spiritual Weaknesses

Jacob looked up and saw that Esau was coming along with four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two female servants. He put the servants and their children in front, with Leah and her children behind them, and Rachel and Joseph behind them… Let my lord go on ahead of his servant. I will travel more slowly, at the pace of the herds and the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.” So Esau said, “Let me leave some of my men with you.” “Why do that?” Jacob replied. “My lord has already been kind enough to me.” So that same day Esau made his way back to Seir. But Jacob traveled to Succoth where he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was called Succoth.

Genesis 33:1-2, 14-17

Even though God has changed our names and given us new identities, we still have certain propensities and weaknesses. Some of them are passed down generationally (Ex 20:5) and some of them come from our practice of certain sins. The more we practice a certain sin, the more vulnerable we are to fall back into it later on in life. With Jacob, one of his weaknesses was favoritism. As seen throughout his narrative, his parents played favorites between him and his brother, Esau, causing animosity between them. When Jacob married two women, he favored Rachel.

Though, Jacob had just wrestled with God and prevailed, he falls right back into the habit of favoritism when he sees Esau. He orders his family to line up based on rank/importance: first the servants and their children, then Leah and her children, and finally Rachel and her son, Joseph. If the servants and their children were attacked, the others could flee. Everybody in the family knew their rank. It probably re-opened a wound for Leah, who had struggled with being unloved throughout the marriage (Gen 29). In addition, all the children knew who Jacob’s favorite child was—it was Joseph.

Later, this seed sown in the children would bear fruit. In Genesis 37, Jacob would give Joseph a robe of many colors—again showing all the other children who his favorite was. This caused the other brothers to hate Joseph and sell him into slavery. Though Jacob was renamed and changed, favoritism was his default setting—like a computer program. He often fell back into it, with disastrous results.

However, this was not Jacob’s only negative default. He also was a deceiver. That’s actually what his name meant. After reconciling with his brother, Esau, he lies to him—saying that he would meet Esau in Seir—Esau’s home. However, when Esau goes south, Jacob goes north, towards Succoth. That was Jacob’s default setting. He lied both to get what he wanted and to protect himself. This was something passed down generationally. Abraham struggled with lying. He lied about his wife being his sister twice—both times leading to her being taken by powerful men. Isaac, Jacob’s father, also lied about his wife. Later, Jacob’s eleven sons would lie to him for years—saying that Joseph was killed by an animal, when they had really sold him into slavery.

If we are going to walk in our new nature and identity in Christ, we must recognize our spiritual weaknesses—the areas we are most prone to fall into sin. David’s weakness was women. Moses tended to take strong actions in his flesh. Early on, he killed an Egyptian—trusting in his own strength to deliver Israel. Later, when God told him to speak to a rock, so water would flow out, he was so frustrated with Israel, he hit the rock; and therefore, God judged him. He was prone to rely on his own strength. That was his default setting.

What is your weakness? If you are going to walk in your new identity, you must identify it and be careful of it. Is it complaining when things are difficult? Is it wanting to quit in the midst of adversity? Is it unforgiveness—cutting people off who have failed you? Whatever negative things you tend to practice when stressed, angry, or threatened is probably your default setting. If you’re going to walk in your new identity, you must be careful of your spiritual weaknesses.

Application Question: What are your spiritual weaknesses—the areas of sin, which you are particularly prone to fall into, especially in times of difficulty? How do you protect yourself from falling into those weaknesses?

To Live Out Our New Identity, We Must Labor to Live at Peace with Others

But Jacob himself went on ahead of them, and he bowed toward the ground seven times as he approached his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, embraced him, hugged his neck, and kissed him. Then they both wept… Esau then asked, “What did you intend by sending all these herds to meet me?” Jacob replied, “To find favor in your sight, my lord.” But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother. Keep what belongs to you.” “No, please take them,” Jacob said. “If I have found favor in your sight, accept my gift from my hand. Now that I have seen your face and you have accepted me, it is as if I have seen the face of God. Please take my present that was brought to you, for God has been generous to me and I have all I need.” When Jacob urged him, he took it.

Genesis 33:3-4, 8-11

When Jacob sees Esau, he bows down seven times. As discovered from ancient Egyptian tablets, this was protocol for honoring a king.3 Jacob humbles himself as a servant before his brother. After embracing each other and weeping, Jacob insists that Esau take his luxurious gift of over 550 cattle. Even though Esau refused, it was important to Jacob for him to take the gift. In ancient times, it was known that one would not accept a gift from an enemy but only from a friend. Therefore, by accepting the gift, Esau would further confirm that their enmity was over and that he had favored Jacob.4

In verse 10, when Jacob said, “‘If I have found favor in your sight, accept my gift from my hand. Now that I have seen your face and you have accepted me, it is as if I have seen the face of God,” he was connecting his wrestling with God and seeing God’s face to seeing Esau’s face.5 When God blessed Jacob after their wrestling, Jacob and Esau’s restoration was a fruit of that.

Similarly, our relationship with others is also connected to our relationship with God. In Matthew 5:23-24, Christ said,

So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.

For this reason, to be out of fellowship with others is to be out of fellowship with God. Our old nature is prone to discord and unforgiveness and our new nature is prone to peace (cf. Gal 5:19-23). Therefore, to live out our new identity in Christ, we must always seek to live at peace with others, as much as depends on us (Rom 12:18).

In order to seek restoration, Jacob humbles himself as a servant, when he bows seven times to Esau—honoring him as a king. He also offered restitution through his generous gift. We must do the same if we are going to live out our new natures in Christ.

Are there any relationships God is calling you to seek to restore? How is God calling you to humble yourself to pursue reconciliation?

Application Question: Are there any strained relationships in your life that God is calling you to seek to restore? What steps should be taken to restore relationships, as modeled in Jacob’s reconciliation with Esau?

To Live Out Our New Identity, We Must Put Our Confidence in God’s Grace and Not Human Strength

When Esau looked up and saw the women and the children, he asked, “Who are these people with you?” Jacob replied, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” The female servants came forward with their children and bowed down. Then Leah came forward with her children and they bowed down. Finally Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed down. Esau then asked, “What did you intend by sending all these herds to meet me?” Jacob replied, “To find favor in your sight, my lord.” But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother. Keep what belongs to you.” “No, please take them,” Jacob said. “If I have found favor in your sight, accept my gift from my hand. Now that I have seen your face and you have accepted me, it is as if I have seen the face of God. Please take my present that was brought to you, for God has been generous to me and I have all I need.” When Jacob urged him, he took it.

Genesis 33:5-11

Twice while talking with Esau, Jacob recognized God’s gracious provisions in his life. When Esau asked who all the people were with him, Jacob replied, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant” (v. 5). After Esau asked about all the herds that were sent to meet him, again Jacob replied by recognizing God’s grace. In verse 11, Jacob said, “Please take my present that was brought to you, for God has been generous to me and I have all I need.’”

Jacob recognized that all twelve of his children were gifts of God—only God had power over the womb, not him or his wives. He also recognized all his wealth came from God. It was not because of all his diligent labor—it was God’s grace. God made all of Laban’s flocks bear striped and dark colored offspring, which were Jacob’s according to his deal with Laban. Jacob’s confidence was in God’s grace and not in his strength or wisdom. This was a marked change for Jacob, who had depended on his ability to manipulate others throughout his life in order to get his way. Now, he realized that God was the giver of every good gift and that he needed to put his confidence in him.

Having confidence in God’s grace and not our strength is a mark of our new nature. In Philippians 3:3 (NIV), Paul said it this way, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.” The Judaizers, who invaded the Philippian congregation, relied on their works for salvation—specifically circumcision. However, true believers rely on God’s grace, as salvation comes through God and not our works. All religions declare something similar to the Judaizers—salvation comes from what we do and not what was done for us. Christianity, properly understood, teaches that salvation comes only by grace—God’s unmerited favor. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Therefore, those who are truly saved and made new in Christ put their confidence in God’s grace, even as Jacob did—not just for salvation but for all things. In Philippians 2:12-13, it says that God works in us to will and do of his good pleasure. All of our good works are simply manifestations of God’s grace. In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul said, “‘For who concedes you any superiority? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as though you did not?” How can we boast, if God has given us everything—such as intelligence, health, gifts, and opportunities? All has come from God. It all represents God’s grace.

Since the world has not experienced God’s Spirit and true salvation, they find their identity and boast in their works—their wealth, accomplishments, resumes, and degrees. John calls this the “pride of life” (1 John 2:16 NIV). This often leads to judging those with less accomplishments or secular status. However, for those walking in the Spirit, it should not be that way. Our experience of grace should make us gracious towards others.

What do you boast in—your flesh, such as accomplishments and strengths, or God’s grace, his unmerited favor on your life? What you boast in shows where your confidence is. As “Jacob,” his confidence was in his strength and ability to manipulate others, but as “Israel,” his confidence was in God’s grace and his grace alone. Confidence in our flesh leads to pride or insecurity and misjudging others. Confidence in God’s grace leads to humility and the edification of others. Which identifies you? To live out our new identities in Christ, we must put our confidence in God’s grace and not our strength or others.

Application Question: Why are we so prone to boast in our achievements and successes and miss God’s hand in them? How can we grow in recognizing God’s grace and giving him thanks for it? In what ways do you struggle with a prideful/critical spirit?

To Live Out Our New Identity, We Must Learn to Trust God

So that same day Esau made his way back to Seir. But Jacob traveled to Succoth where he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was called Succoth. After he left Paddan Aram, Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem in the land of Canaan, and he camped near the city.

Genesis 33:16-18

Jacob traveled to Succoth, the opposite direction of Esau’s home in Seir. Seir was south, and Succoth was northwest.6 Not only did Jacob deceive Esau, but also disobeyed God. When God called Jacob to leave his uncle’s house, he was supposed to return to the land of his fathers, Canaan (Gen 31:3). However, Succoth was outside of the promised land. We can surmise that Jacob stayed there for a few years, since he built a house and made shelters for his livestock. Afterward, he moved to Shechem, which was in the promised land.

Why did Jacob delay obedience? It seems that he still feared Esau. This is implied in Genesis 33:18 when the narrator said Jacob came “safely” to the city of Shechem. Even though Jacob and Esau reconciled, Jacob still didn’t trust him. He went the opposite direction out of fear. However, this fear really meant Jacob didn’t trust God. In Genesis 28:15, God promised to protect Jacob and bring him back from Haran to Canaan. In Genesis 31:3, God told Jacob to leave Haran and return to his fathers’ land and that God would be with him. And in Genesis 32:28, after wrestling with God, God said that he had prevailed with God and men; this prevailing with men referred, at least in part, to Esau. Though Jacob had many promises of God’s blessings and protection, he didn’t trust them wholly. This kept him from living out his identity as Israel—the one God commands.

Similarly, a lack of trust in God will keep us from living out our identity. It was when Eve doubted God that she fell away from him. If we don’t trust God’s promises to us, we will sin against him and miss his best as well. God promises that as we seek first his kingdom all things will be added unto us (Matt 6:33). He promises that as we acknowledge him in all our ways, God will direct our paths (Prov 3:6). He promises that as we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, we’ll find healing (James 5:16). He promises if we practice generous giving, God will generously give to us (2 Cor 9:6-10). He promises that if we delight in his word and meditate on it day and night, he will prosper us (Ps 1:1-3). His promises to us are legion. However, because we don’t trust God and his promises, we often delay obedience and live in our old nature instead of our new one. Therefore, like Jacob, we delay in Succoth; like Israel, we wander in the wilderness; like Abraham, we run down to Egypt instead of living in the land of promise.

In what ways are you not trusting God and therefore delaying obedience? Many say to God, “One day, I will wholeheartedly follow you, one day I’ll give you all I have, but first I want to get married, first I have to take care of my career, first I want to have fun…” Obedience just keeps getting delayed, when we don’t fully trust God. Are you trusting God and therefore obeying, or doubting him and delaying?

Application Question: Are there any areas of delayed or partial obedience in your life? How is God calling you to remedy them? What are your fears that threaten your reception of God’s promises and keep you from obedience? How can we further develop our faith?

To Live Out Our New Identity, We Must Be Bold Worshipers

Then he purchased the portion of the field where he had pitched his tent; he bought it from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of money. There he set up an altar and called it “The God of Israel is God.”

Genesis 33:19-20

When Jacob purchased a field in Shechem, it was an act of faith. God had promised him and his descendants the land, and therefore, he not only returned to it, but also purchased land in it. Shechem was also the first place that Abraham went when entering the promised land (Gen 12:6). After purchasing property, Jacob built an altar there and called it, “The God of Israel is God.” Not only would this be a place of worship for his family, but it was also a declaration of monotheism to the surrounding pagans—declaring there was no other God. Jacob was a bold worshiper. His grandfather, Abraham, did the same thing when he came to Shechem. In Genesis 12:6-7, Abraham built an altar right next to the “tree of Moreh”—which means the “tree of teaching.” Canaanites would often build sanctuaries in trees. It was probably a place where pagan prophets taught. However, it didn’t matter to Abraham. He boldly proclaimed his God there, and Jacob did the same. The God of Israel is God!

Similarly, if we are going to live out our identity in Christ, we must be bold worshipers. This is much truer in the New Covenant than in the Old Covenant. In the Old, they were called to worship at the tabernacle and then the temple; however, in the New, God has made our bodies his temple. First Corinthians 6:19 says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” Therefore, since we are God’s temple, we should worship at all times, as we are not limited by location. We should worship at church, at home, at work, and while at leisure. For the believer, every place must become an altar and opportunity to express our appreciation to God and tell others about him. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”

In addition, it must be remembered that when Jacob made a nonaggression pact with Laban, he swore by “the God whom his father Isaac feared” (Gen 31:53). Now, he calls God, “the God of Israel.” His identity is now found in God and not just the God of his father. He is unashamed and bold. God blessed him while in Haran, protected him from Laban, and now protected him from Esau. God was his God, and he would boldly proclaim his glory.

Are you boldly worshiping God and proclaiming his glory? We need to do this both individually and corporately. In Matthew 18:20, Christ taught that when two or more are gathered in his name, he is in the midst. This means that though God is always with us, he is with us in a special way when gathered with other worshipers to honor God’s name. If we are going to live out our new identity as children of God, we must live a lifestyle of worship—seeking him individually through prayer and devotion, but also meeting with saints for prayer and praise, gathering in small groups and large groups for worship. In Acts 2, when Peter preached and 3,000 were saved, they immediately started gathering every day from house to house and at the temple court for worship. The new Christians gathered where all the Jews worshiped, even though they were persecutors of the faith. They were bold worshipers, like Abraham and Jacob.

Are you a bold worshiper? Are you sharing your faith, unashamedly, with others? In Romans 1:16, Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

If you are a quiet worshiper, who never shares your faith, you might not be a worshiper at all. When people are truly excited about something, they tell people. They talk with excitement about the new movie they just saw or the new restaurant they recently dined at. They often tell all who will listen. They post on social media for all to see. When we are truly worshiping God, that’s how we are with our faith. Every place becomes the foundation of an altar.

Are you a bold worshiper? Are you living out your new identity as a worshiper of Christ? You are the temple of God and therefore every place you go should essentially become an altar. Thank you, Lord. Amen!

Application Question: How do you practice weekly worship, both individually and corporately? How is God calling you to grow in your worship of him? In what ways are you tempted to be quiet about your faith instead of sharing it? Are there any ways God is calling you to grow in your boldness?

Conclusion

After Jacob wrestled with God, God gave him a new name and identity; however, after receiving this great blessing, he often failed to live according to it. He fluctuated between being the deceiver, Jacob, and the one God commands, Israel. He wasn’t the same, but he wasn’t where he should have been. We often are like this as well. God calls us saints, but we often live as sinners. God calls us new creations in Christ, but we often live like our old selves. How can we live out our new identities in Christ?

  1. To Live Out Our New Identity, We Must Be Careful of Our Spiritual Weaknesses
  2. To Live Out Our New Identity, We Must Labor to Live at Peace with Others
  3. To Live Out Our New Identity, We Must Put Our Confidence in God’s Grace and Not Human Strength
  4. To Live Out Our New Identity, We Must Learn to Trust God
  5. To Live Out Our New Identity, We Must Be Bold Worshipers

Copyright © 2018 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Boice, J. M. (1998). Genesis: an expositional commentary (p. 824). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

2 Pink, Arthur W.. Gleanings in Genesis (p. 360). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

3 Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary - The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Genesis II.

4 Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary - The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Genesis II.

5 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (p. 405). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

6 Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Be authentic (p. 62). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

Related Topics: Character Study, Christian Life

12. Consequences of Neglecting God (Genesis 34)

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Now Dinah, Leah’s daughter whom she bore to Jacob, went to meet the young women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, who ruled that area, saw her, he grabbed her, forced himself on her, and sexually assaulted her. Then he became very attached to Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He fell in love with the young woman and spoke romantically to her. Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Acquire this young girl as my wife.” When Jacob heard that Shechem had violated his daughter Dinah, his sons were with the livestock in the field. So Jacob remained silent until they came in. Then Shechem’s father Hamor went to speak with Jacob about Dinah. Now Jacob’s sons had come in from the field when they heard the news. They were offended and very angry because Shechem had disgraced Israel by sexually assaulting Jacob’s daughter, a crime that should not be committed. But Hamor made this appeal to them: “My son Shechem is in love with your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us. Let us marry your daughters, and take our daughters as wives for yourselves. You may live among us, and the land will be open to you. Live in it, travel freely in it, and acquire property in it.” Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your sight, and whatever you require of me I’ll give. You can make the bride price and the gift I must bring very expensive, and I’ll give whatever you ask of me. Just give me the young woman as my wife!” Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully when they spoke because Shechem had violated their sister Dinah. They said to them, “We cannot give our sister to a man who is not circumcised, for it would be a disgrace to us. We will give you our consent on this one condition: You must become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters to marry, and we will take your daughters as wives for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. But if you do not agree to our terms by being circumcised, then we will take our sister and depart.” Their offer pleased Hamor and his son Shechem. The young man did not delay in doing what they asked because he wanted Jacob’s daughter Dinah badly. (Now he was more important than anyone in his father’s household.) So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, “These men are at peace with us. So let them live in the land and travel freely in it, for the land is wide enough for them. We will take their daughters for wives, and we will give them our daughters to marry. Only on this one condition will these men consent to live with us and become one people: They demand that every male among us be circumcised just as they are circumcised. If we do so, won’t their livestock, their property, and all their animals become ours? So let’s consent to their demand, so they will live among us.” All the men who assembled at the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem. Every male who assembled at the city gate was circumcised. In three days, when they were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and went to the unsuspecting city and slaughtered every male. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and left. Jacob’s sons killed them and looted the city because their sister had been violated. They took their flocks, herds, and donkeys, as well as everything in the city and in the surrounding fields. They captured as plunder all their wealth, all their little ones, and their wives, including everything in the houses…

Genesis 34 (NET)

What are consequences of neglecting God?

Genesis 34 is one of the more tragic chapters in the Bible. In the narrative, Jacob’s only daughter Dinah was raped by a prince in the land of Shechem. After the assault, the young man (also named Shechem) realized that he loved Dinah and sent his father to arrange a marriage between the families. Jacob’s sons agreed on the condition that the men of Shechem circumcise themselves. Because of the potential to gain great wealth through the partnership, the men of the town agreed and went through with the procedure. On the third day after their circumcision, when the pain probably was the worst, two of Jacob’s sons murdered all the men in the town.

The story is tragic. Many might question, “Why is this story in the Bible?” and “What can we learn from it?” There are many things: For one, stories like this give evidence of the Divine authorship of Scripture. From a human perspective, adding this story makes no sense. If Moses, the author of Genesis, was simply trying to encourage Israel before they entered the promised land, this story would have been left out, as it displays the Jews in an unflattering light. Even the Canaanites look more righteous than Israel in this story. Human authors would not have added this story. But, since God is the ultimate author of Scripture, he doesn’t hide the flaws of his people. David had flaws. Moses had flaws. Abraham had flaws. Jacob had flaws, and the Israelites had flaws. In fact, this demonstrates that all are sinners—Jews and Gentiles. However, God can change flawed people and use them for his purposes, which he eventually does with Israel. In one sense, this chapter should give us all hope.

In addition, not only does this story demonstrate the Divine authorship of Scripture, but also shows us what happens when God is neglected. In the previous narrative, Jacob had worked for his uncle Laban for twenty years, and while working for him, he was cheated and abused. When Jacob fled from Laban, God rescued him. After God resolved that situation, Jacob sought reconciliation with his brother Esau; however, Esau responded with bringing 400 men to meet him. His response appears to be hostile. However, God delivered Jacob from that situation as well—bringing reconciliation.

After a long period of time living in the land of Succoth, Jacob finally brought his family to the land of Shechem in Genesis 33. While there, Jacob built an altar—declaring that the God of Israel was God (Gen 33:20). For twenty years of hostile service in Haran, God protected and prospered Jacob. When he was about to encounter his angry brother, God protected him again. But now in Shechem, Jacob was threatened by a much more difficult problem—ease and prosperity. Though his major struggles seemed to be over, his most difficult struggle appeared—maintaining faith in ease and prosperity. This is why Scripture says we should rejoice in various trials and tribulations, as they test our faith (Jam 1:2). It is much harder to be faithful to God in ease than in difficulty. And it appears that Jacob and his family began to neglect God in this season.

How can we tell that Jacob and his family neglected God?

In Genesis 35, after this terrible narrative, Jacob led his family in repentance. Consider what he says to his household and all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes” (v. 2). While in Shechem and living in prosperity, his family had started worshiping pagan gods. In fact, Josephus, a Jewish historian, said that Dinah went into the city, not only to see the ladies, but also to go to a pagan festival.1 It appears that while neglecting God, Jacob’s family began to conform to the world and worship the idols of the world. This is exactly how Paul describes the pagan world in Romans 1:21-23:

For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

When the world denies the knowledge of God, as seen in creation or Scripture, people naturally find something to worship, even if it’s themselves. Humanity was made to worship God, and if we don’t worship him, we will worship something else. We don’t just see this in the world around us, but we see this in ourselves, as believers. When we’re neglecting God, he is replaced by some idol—something that gets most of our attention: social media, video games, career, money, relationships, etc.

In Romans 1:28, Paul adds: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.” When people neglect God, their thinking becomes depraved—leading to depraved actions. That’s just what we see in this chapter—the consequences of neglecting God, both among pagans and believers.

Something else that may imply the neglect of God in this narrative is the fact that this is one of the few chapters in the Bible where God is never mentioned.2 In the book of Esther, God is never mentioned either, but his sovereign and positive influence is seen throughout the pages. In Genesis 34, though God is not mentioned, we know he is present, but he seems to be present for judgment. He is handing people over to a “depraved mind” as they’ve neglected him—allowing them to commit sin and reap the terrible consequences of it.

This is the tragic story of society, as we see these consequences happening all around us and often in our own lives. In this story, a pagan rapes Dinah, and in return, the Israelites deceive and kill all the men in the city—committing a worse sin. Sadly, that often happens in our world as well, when believers neglect God. They neglect God—leading to being conformed to the world and often committing worse sins than the world, impacting society negatively. Though redeemed, believers still have a sinful nature that must be subdued by living in the Spirit (Gal 5:16-22).

As we study this narrative, we must be sober and aware that these unfortunate consequences of neglecting God can happen in our nations, communities, churches, and homes. Let us consider them and be warned, which, no doubt, is the narrator’s purpose in sharing this story.

Big Question: What are the consequences of neglecting God, as demonstrated in the Genesis 34 narrative?

Now Dinah, Leah’s daughter whom she bore to Jacob, went to meet the young women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, who ruled that area, saw her, he grabbed her, forced himself on her, and sexually assaulted her. Then he became very attached to Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He fell in love with the young woman and spoke romantically to her. Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Acquire this young girl as my wife.” When Jacob heard that Shechem had violated his daughter Dinah, his sons were with the livestock in the field. So Jacob remained silent until they came in. Then Shechem’s father Hamor went to speak with Jacob about Dinah. Now Jacob’s sons had come in from the field when they heard the news. They were offended and very angry because Shechem had disgraced Israel by sexually assaulting Jacob’s daughter, a crime that should not be committed. But Hamor made this appeal to them: “My son Shechem is in love with your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us. Let us marry your daughters, and take our daughters as wives for yourselves. You may live among us, and the land will be open to you. Live in it, travel freely in it, and acquire property in it.” Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your sight, and whatever you require of me I’ll give. You can make the bride price and the gift I must bring very expensive, and I’ll give whatever you ask of me. Just give me the young woman as my wife!”

Genesis 34:1-12

As the story begins, Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter, goes to the city to meet with the young ladies of the land and is raped by Shechem, the prince of the land. Most likely, Dinah was around fourteen to sixteen years old. In the ancient world, it was known that unaccompanied ladies were vulnerable to being assaulted by men. Henry Morris says, “Unattached young women were considered fair game in cities of the time, in which promiscuity was not only common but, in fact, a part of the very religious system itself.”3 This was particularly true of the Canaanites, who were corrupt and known for their sexual immorality (cf. Lev 18). Unaccompanied women were often violently taken by the leaders of the land. This happened twice with Abraham, as his wife was taken into Pharaoh’s and Abimelech’s harems (12:15; 20:2). Both times, aware of this tragic cultural reality, Abraham lied and said that she was his sister to protect himself from being killed because of her. Isaac, Jacob’s father, also lied about his wife, afraid someone would take her and kill him (Genesis 26:7). Why Dinah’s father or brothers are not with her is unclear.

But to further demonstrate the gravity of the gross immorality in Shechem, when Hamor, the prince’s father, approached Jacob about Dinah marrying his son, he doesn’t apologize or even mention the issue. It was as if it wasn’t a big deal. Maybe, Hamor thought, “Oh, boys will be boys!” This shows how acceptable the rape of a young lady was. In the ancient world, sexual immorality was a part of religious worship—people would have all types of gross sex to please the gods and seek prosperity. Therefore, sex wasn’t special, and it wasn’t necessarily to be preserved for one’s spouse—especially if one was a man.

This is what happens in a society that disregards God. In Romans 1:24-27, Paul describes this:

Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Sexual immorality and homosexuality are results of denying God. When God is denied, sexual immorality saturates society. We see this happening all around us. Sex is emphasized on TV, movies, music, and the Internet. It is used to sell all types of products. Pornography is one of the biggest industries in the world. Sex trafficking is a growing illegal industry. In the US, one out of six females are victims of an attempted or completed rape.4 Similarly, one out of four females on college campuses experience sexual assault.5 In addition, the acceptance of homosexuality has grown. It is commonly promoted on the TV, news, college campuses, and city parades. Even polygamy, having multiple marriage partners, is growing in acceptability. When God is neglected in a society, sexual immorality saturates it.

But this is not just a problem for society, it is also a problem for believers. When we are neglecting God, we will often find ourselves struggling with lustful thoughts and images—consequently, making us more prone to fall into sexual actions. In Genesis 38, Judah, Jacob’s son, will visit a prostitute. David, the king of Israel, will not only have many wives and concubines, but will also commit adultery (2 Sam 11). When God is neglected in our lives, often, lust will rear its ugly head in some form or another. We must be careful of this.

Because of this danger, Paul said, “Flee sexual immorality! ‘Every sin a person commits is outside of the body’—but the immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor 6:18). It’s so dangerous, we must run from it. Turn off the TV! Cut off the Internet! End the relationship! We must be zealous and brutal to stay pure in a world that is being increasingly sexualized.

Are you guarding yourself and others against sexual immorality?

Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced the growing promotion and acceptance of sexual immorality in society? How should Christians protect their minds and bodies from this very present danger?

When God Is Neglected, Parents Neglect Their Children

Now Dinah, Leah’s daughter whom she bore to Jacob, went to meet the young women of the land… When Jacob heard that Shechem had violated his daughter Dinah, his sons were with the livestock in the field. So Jacob remained silent until they came in… Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully when they spoke because Shechem had violated their sister Dinah. They said to them, “We cannot give our sister to a man who is not circumcised, for it would be a disgrace to us. We will give you our consent on this one condition: You must become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters to marry, and we will take your daughters as wives for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. But if you do not agree to our terms by being circumcised, then we will take our sister and depart.”

Genesis 34:1, 5, 13-17

In this narrative, one of the sad realities is the lack of parental involvement and leadership. As mentioned, it was common and accepted in that society for unaccompanied females to be sexually assaulted. In some areas, even unaccompanied men might be raped (cf. Gen 19, Judges 19)! Why was Jacob’s teenage daughter even allowed to go to the city by herself? Where were the parental boundaries?

In addition to this, after the rape, Jacob is quiet and uninvolved. He doesn’t charge Shechem with wrong and doesn’t even get involved with the negotiation. He allows his sons to handle it. To make this even worse, it is clear from the narrative that Dinah wasn’t at home with Jacob but was being held captive by this family (Gen 34:26). When his sons agreed to intermarry with the Hivites on the condition of circumcision, Jacob doesn’t say, “No.” This was a major spiritual failure on Jacob’s part. To intermarry with the Canaanites would have threatened God’s promise. Abraham wouldn’t allow Isaac to marry a Canaanite. Isaac wouldn’t allow Jacob to marry a Canaanite. This would have led to compromise and the Israelites further adopting the sins of that culture. Jacob fails his children practically and spiritually. Why was he so uninvolved?

With Dinah, Jacob is probably quiet because she wasn’t his priority. This is sad to say, but Jacob was known for playing favorites. He favored Rachel’s children over Leah’s. Also, because sons were favored over daughters during that period of time, Dinah might have been his least favorite. She was a child of Leah, and she wasn’t a boy. Maybe, Jacob doesn’t say anything because he knows that he is responsible. He didn’t protect her by loving her and establishing appropriate boundaries for her. This was a sad situation.

However, this situation is very common when God is neglected. When God is neglected, parents neglect their responsibilities to their children. (1) They don’t establish appropriate boundaries for them. Many of our kids are exposed to things they shouldn’t be exposed to on the Internet, TV, video games, books, music, etc. Many parents set no appropriate boundaries, which allows the enemy to tempt and influence them negatively. Some parents even say things like, “Well, I don’t want to shelter my kids and protect them from the world!” In Romans 16:19, Paul said, “But I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” We should prepare our children for the world by teaching them the truth about sin, what they will encounter in the world, and how they should respond. If we don’t do that, the world will expose them in a negative way—it will be done in a way that promotes evil and lures them into sin, instead of away from it. We must train our children to be wise and at the same time innocent. The world only plans to corrupt them and take away their innocence.

(2) In a society where people neglect God, not only will parents neglect their responsibilities by not setting appropriate boundaries, but they also will tend to not discipline their children at all. Often disciplining children will be looked down upon, as if left alone, children will naturally blossom into maturity and wisdom. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 19:18 (GNT) says, “Discipline your children while they are young enough to learn. If you don’t, you are helping them destroy themselves.” Without appropriate discipline, children will grow up wild and rebellious. When there is no discipline in the home, the children will disrespect and rebel against the parents. This leads to children disrespecting teachers, bosses, government leaders, and even God—creating increased dishonesty, crime, and anarchy in society.

Why do parents neglect their children, other than the fact they’re neglecting God? Some neglect their children simply because they were neglected as children, and therefore, they don’t know how to properly parent. Their father or mother wasn’t around or involved for whatever reasons. The sins of the parents show up in the children’s lives and therefore are repeated (cf. Ex 20:5). Another common reason parents neglect their children is simply for career purposes. In order to have a higher standard of living, kids are handed off to schools, coaches, and tutors for training. Often these people don’t have any Christian values at all. When a worldly environment gets our children for eight or more hours a day (especially if we include television, music, etc.), then the one or two hours a day with parents and one hour of church on Sunday won’t be very influential.

In this narrative, Jacob didn’t only fail Dinah, he also failed his sons, who committed unjust murders. They were right to seek justice; however, murdering a whole village of men for the sins of one was hardly just. Since Jacob did nothing, his sons reacted. Finally, when Jacob rebukes his sons, he only focuses on what they did to “him” (v. 30)—not God or others.

When God is neglected in a society or a home, parents typically neglect their responsibilities—to the demise of their children.

Application Question: In what ways have you witnessed this growing trend of parents neglecting their children by not loving them, disciplining them, and setting boundaries for them? Why is this happening? How should it be remedied?

When God Is Neglected, Religion Is Abused

Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully when they spoke because Shechem had violated their sister Dinah. They said to them, “We cannot give our sister to a man who is not circumcised, for it would be a disgrace to us. We will give you our consent on this one condition: You must become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters to marry, and we will take your daughters as wives for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. But if you do not agree to our terms by being circumcised, then we will take our sister and depart.”

Genesis 34:13-17

In response to Hamor’s and Shechem’s offer, Jacob’s sons said that it would be disgraceful for Dinah to marry someone uncircumcised. Therefore, they promised to give consent if all the males of the city became circumcised. If they did that, then the two tribes could intermarry.

It is clear that Jacob’s sons had no plan to intermarry with these people. This deal was deceptive. But what makes this deception even worse is the fact that they used their sign of faith to secure the deal. In Genesis 17, God called Abraham to circumcise himself and the males in his household as a sign of faith. This was to be a perpetual sign of their covenant with God for generations. Therefore, by asking the men to circumcise themselves—they were asking them to participate in Israel’s religion. Most likely, they further explained the symbolic nature of circumcision. This is what made their act even more evil.

This is also common when God is neglected in our world today; religion becomes abused for selfish and evil reasons. (1) Sometimes religion is used for financial gain. In 1 Timothy 6:5, Paul warned Timothy about those who used godliness as “a way of making a profit.” Many churches and Christian organizations are just money-making businesses. Profit has eroded their sense of mission and integrity. (2) Religion is also used to control and abuse people—as often seen in cults. In 2 Timothy 3:5-6 (NIV), Paul describes abusive spiritual leaders:

having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires

With this abuse of religion, many will fall away from the church in droves. The false teaching, hunger for power and money, and manipulation of people will drive many away.

(3) Religion is also abused when it primarily focuses on people securing their “passions,” like lust or wealth, instead of holiness. In 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV), Paul warns Timothy of this:

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Not only will the leaders neglect God and abuse the people, but also the people won’t want God and his Word. Religion will be used primarily to comfort people in sin and even encourage it, instead of to warn and challenge them to holiness. Congregations will find teachers who make them feel good by preaching myths. When God is neglected, the abuse of religion will be comprehensive—developing many false believers and false teachers.

When God was neglected in Shechem, religion was used for personal gain. The men agreed to circumcision, not because of faith, but to gain the wealth of Israel (v. 20-24). Religion was also abused for vengeance. Jacob’s sons murdered the men of the city after they were circumcised. Sadly, when God is neglected, religion will be abused—leading to tragic results in our societies as well.

Application Question: How have you seen or experienced the abuse of religion in the church and society in general? How should true believers seek to remain faithful in times like these?

When God Is Neglected, Violence Increases

In three days, when they were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and went to the unsuspecting city and slaughtered every male. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and left. Jacob’s sons killed them and looted the city because their sister had been violated. They took their flocks, herds, and donkeys, as well as everything in the city and in the surrounding fields. They captured as plunder all their wealth, all their little ones, and their wives, including everything in the houses.

Genesis 34:25-29

While the Hivites were in pain from their circumcision, two of Jacob’s son’s, Simeon and Levi, murdered all the men of the village. Most likely, they had some servants help with this slaughter. After the murder, they also plundered the city and surrounding fields—taking the wealth, children, and women.

This is also common in society and church when God is neglected. Romans 1:28-32 says:

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.

Paul says when people don’t acknowledge God, it leads to murder, hostility, insolence, ruthlessness, and even approval of such evils. Sadly, we live in societies where abortions happen more than live births. People declare the rights of parents to murder their children. Generations are being wiped out because of inconvenience. When Paul says “heartless” (Rom 1:31), it can also be translated “without natural affection” (KJV). It is normal for parents to love their children. However, when people neglect God, abortions become common place because love comes from God. Self-love is the default of our flesh, and when someone gets in the way of our comfort—hurting them is acceptable.

In a society where God is neglected, senseless violence becomes common—suicide, the murder of innocents in schools and businesses, genocide, war, etc. Even our entertainment will be violent, as people apart from God love violence. The video games, movies, and music will be filled with it. Artists who sing about their abuse of women, drug selling, and gang banging will go platinum and get movie deals. As the entertainment world promotes violence, our young people will become even more violent.

This is the world we live in, and sadly, these acts of violence will at times be seen amongst the church. When James writes the Hebrew Christians who were scattered because of persecution, he rebukes them for murdering one another. James 4:1-3 says,

Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.

Hatred and anger are seeds of murder; therefore, when Christians allow those emotions to foster, they lead to acts of violence. Husbands beat their wives. Children fight with their parents, and church members continually hurt one another—behaving worse than pagans. The sins of Jacob’s children did not draw pagans to God; it only further pushed them away. Like Paul said, “the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’’ (Rom 2:24). The people of Israel were no better than the world around them. In fact, they were probably worse.

Sadly, in many places, Christians don’t have great testimonies either. Instead of returning good for evil (Rom 12:21), they return eye for eye and tooth for tooth. Sometimes like Jacob’s sons, they go even farther than that—returning face for tooth and body for finger. Instead of justice, they seek vengeance—turning many away from Christ.

Application Question: How have you seen or experienced violence increasing in the world? Why is it so prevalent? In what ways have you seen or experienced it in the church?

When God Is Neglected, He Brings Discipline to Help Us Repent

In Genesis 35:1-3, we see that God uses this difficult event to turn Jacob and his family back to God. It says:

Then God said to Jacob, “Go up at once to Bethel and live there. Make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob told his household and all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes. Let us go up at once to Bethel. Then I will make an altar there to God, who responded to me in my time of distress and has been with me wherever I went.”

Often God has to do the same with us. He will use tragedy in a person’s life, family, or nation to draw people to repentance. Hebrews 12:5-6 and verse 8 says,

And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” … But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons.

In what ways is God drawing you back to himself through discipline? God loves us too much to allow us to continue to neglect him and go our own way. When Jonah ran from God, God brought a storm in his life to turn him back (Jonah 1). When David committed adultery and murder, Scripture says God’s hand was heavy upon him until he repented (Psalm 32:3-5 ESV). When the Corinthian church was abusing the Lord’s Supper, God disciplined some with sickness, depression, and even death (1 Cor 11:28-30). God loved them too much to allow them to continue in sin.

God does the same with us. He uses discipline to help us repent and turn back to him. If we are without discipline, we are not true children of God.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced strong discipline, including the consequences of sin, which turned you from sin back to God? How do you see God’s discipline operating in the church and society?

Application

Application Question: In understanding the consequences of neglecting God, how should we respond?

1. We must be careful of times of ease and prosperity.

It wasn’t when things were bad that Jacob’s family neglected God and committed treacherous acts; it was when things were good. It was after God delivered them from Laban and Esau. It was when they were prosperous and admired by others that they neglected God (cf. Gen 35:2)—leading to great sins. In the same way, when things are good, we tend to neglect God and fall into sin as well. Be careful of those times.

2. We must be spiritually disciplined.

A major fall away from God doesn’t happen at once. It happens gradually. It happens as we stop attending church faithfully, reading our Bibles, praying, and having Christian fellowship. Soon we find ourselves far away from God and his people, and doing things we never thought we would do again or worse. To stop this gradual fall, we must be faithful and disciplined. We must practice regular spiritual disciplines, have accountability, and put God first before everything.

3. We must be hopeful because God is greater than our broken situations.

Though God is never mentioned in this terrible narrative—hope in him is implied. God eventually takes this blasphemous and murderous family and makes them the twelve tribes of Israel. They become the authors and stewards of God’s Word. They build the tabernacle and temple and become witnesses to the pagan world. Jesus said salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22). God eventually uses these people greatly, and God can do the same with us. He can turn around our lives, churches, and nations. He can bring light out of darkness and beauty out of ugliness. He can take our thorns and make them our greatest boasts (2 Cor 12:7-9). Therefore, as we consider our dark and desperate situations, we must be hopeful. Our God is greater! Thank you, Lord.

Conclusion

After God delivers Jacob and his family from Laban and Esau and they arrive safely in Canaan, it seems they neglected God. In Genesis 35, we see that the family picked up many idols while dwelling in Canaan. God stopped being their priority and there were terrible consequences because of this. In addition, the Hivites, who were pagans, were already experiencing the results of not acknowledging the true God. Sadly, many of these consequences can be seen in our societies, churches, and individual lives. What are consequences of neglecting God? It is important to know them, so we can repent of them.

  1. When God Is Neglected, Sexual Immorality Saturates Society
  2. When God Is Neglected, Parents Neglect Their Children
  3. When God Is Neglected, Religion Is Abused
  4. When God Is Neglected, Violence Increases
  5. When God Is Neglected, He Brings Discipline to Help Us Repent

Copyright © 2018 Gregory Brown

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1 Bruce Goettsche’s sermon from Genesis 34, “When God Is Absent,” accessed 5/25/2018 from http://www.unionchurch.com/archive/101099.html

2 Guzik, D. (2013). Genesis (Ge 35:1). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

3 Guzik, D. (2013). Genesis (Ge 34:1–4). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

4 Accessed 5/25/2018 from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

5 Accessed 5/25/2018 from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-earp/1-in-4-women-how-the-late_b_8191448.html

Related Topics: Character Study, Christian Life

13. Experiencing Revival in Our Lives and Communities (Genesis 35)

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Then God said to Jacob, “Go up at once to Bethel and live there. Make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob told his household and all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes. Let us go up at once to Bethel. Then I will make an altar there to God, who responded to me in my time of distress and has been with me wherever I went.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods that were in their possession and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob buried them under the oak near Shechem and they started on their journey. The surrounding cities were afraid of God, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. Jacob and all those who were with him arrived at Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. He built an altar there and named the place El Bethel because there God had revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother. (Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak below Bethel; thus it was named Oak of Weeping.) God appeared to Jacob again after he returned from Paddan Aram and blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but your name will no longer be called Jacob; Israel will be your name.” So God named him Israel. Then God said to him, “I am the sovereign God. Be fruitful and multiply! A nation—even a company of nations—will descend from you; kings will be among your descendants! The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you. To your descendants I will also give this land.” Then God went up from the place where he spoke with him. So Jacob set up a sacred stone pillar in the place where God spoke with him. He poured out a drink offering on it, and then he poured oil on it. Jacob named the place where God spoke with him Bethel. They traveled on from Bethel, and when Ephrath was still some distance away, Rachel went into labor—and her labor was hard. When her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you are having another son.” With her dying breath, she named him Ben-Oni. But his father called him Benjamin instead. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Jacob set up a marker over her grave; it is the Marker of Rachel’s Grave to this day. Then Israel traveled on and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. While Israel was living in that land, Reuben had sexual relations with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Israel heard about it. Jacob had twelve sons: The sons of Leah were Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, as well as Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant, were Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant, were Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan Aram. So Jacob came back to his father Isaac in Mamre, to Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lived to be 180 years old. Then Isaac breathed his last and joined his ancestors. He died an old man who had lived a full life. His sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Genesis 35 (NET)

How can we experience revival in our lives and communities?

Genesis 35 comes right after the terrible story of Genesis 34. There Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped by the prince of Shechem. Then Jacob’s sons seek vengeance by killing all the men in Shechem. If someone was reading the Bible for the first time, he might ask, “God is going to bless all the nations through this family? The messiah is going to come through them?”

In Genesis 35, God immediately goes to work to further transform Jacob and his family into a people, God can use greatly. If Genesis 34 was a desert, Genesis 35 is an oasis. In Genesis 34, God is never mentioned. Throughout the narrative God is neglected by both Jacob’s family and the Hivites. But in Genesis 35, the name “God” is mentioned eleven times. It is also mentioned twelve more times in names like Israel, Bethel, and El Shaddai (Sovereign God or God Almighty).1 His name and influence saturate this chapter. Jacob and his family experience a revival in their lives—preparing them for greater works for God.

As we consider this chapter, it demonstrates how to experience revival in our lives and communities. Many of us can look back at times when we were more on fire for God, hungrier for his Word, and more passionate to serve him. But now, those times are simply distant memories. Similarly, many of our well-known churches, Christian universities and organizations are really just monuments of the past—times when God moved in special ways. How can we experience and maintain personal and corporate revival? We can discern this from the revival Jacob and his family experienced in Genesis 35.

Big Question: What principles about experiencing revival can be discerned from Genesis 35?

To Experience Revival, We Must Recognize Our Desperate Need for God

Then God said to Jacob, “Go up at once to Bethel and live there. Make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob told his household and all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have among you.

Genesis 35:1-2

In order for Jacob and his family to experience revival, God needed to shake them. He needed to shake them by revealing how bad their spiritual lives had become. Typically, a fall doesn’t happen at once. It’s gradual as small compromises begin to manifest in our lives—leading to larger ones. As displayed in this chapter, Jacob’s family had begun to gather idols (Gen 35:4). When Jacob initially moved to Shechem, he erected an altar named “the God of Israel is God” (Gen 33:20). However, idolatry eventually became a stronghold in his family—eroding their morals and spirituality. They worshiped God and the gods of the nations. In many ways, they were just like the world. Therefore, God allowed them to experience tragedy to show them how far they had fallen and remind them of their deep need for him.

The tragedy was meant to break them. Dinah had been defiled, the men of the city had been murdered, and now they were in fear of the other nations coming after them (Gen 34:30). The revelation was meant to reveal their need to get right with God. Through all this, they should have recognized, they were sinful before God and just as ungodly, if not worse than, the world around them. They were broken and therefore right where God needed them to be, so he could move in their lives in a special way and change them. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he delivers those who are discouraged.” Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”

Other than through trials, God often helps us recognize our great need for him by giving us a special revelation of himself. With Isaiah, he saw God high and lifted up, and in response, he confessed his sins and those of his people (Is 6). Seeing God’s light, showed him the darkness in his heart and the darkness around him. Similarly, it’s interesting to consider that right after God called Jacob to return to Bethel, Jacob immediately told his people to get rid of their idols, even though God never mentioned them. Like Isaiah, when Jacob experienced God, he saw his sin and the sin around him. Through both his family trial and his revelation of God, Jacob knew his and his family’s great need for God and therefore was ready for revival.

In understanding this, we can tell why many of us aren’t experiencing revival. We don’t see our need for it. We don’t recognize how broken and sinful we are. We don’t recognize our need for God’s Word, prayer, Christian fellowship, and repentance. This is why we often lack a desire for these things and neglect them. Therefore, God has to help us see our need—either through a trial, special revelation, or both.

Are you recognizing your desperate need for God? Are you ready to experience personal revival?

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced revival after a trial or special revelation of God? How can we keep a recognition of our desperate need for God, even when not experiencing trials or special revelations? How can we grow spiritually even in mundane times?

To Experience Revival, We Must Hear and Respond to God’s Word

Then God said to Jacob, “Go up at once to Bethel and live there. Make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” … and they started on their journey. The surrounding cities were afraid of God, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

Genesis 35:1, 5

As mentioned, in Jacob’s brokenness, God spoke to him. He called him to return to Bethel, where God initially appeared to Jacob when he fled Esau (Gen 28), and build an altar there. After Jacob’s family left Shechem, the fear of God fell on the surrounding peoples, as God protected Jacob’s family. Psalm 34:7 says, “The Lord’s angel camps around the Lord’s loyal followers and delivers them.” As they were obedient, God delivered them.

In the same way, revival cannot happen apart from our hearing and responding to God’s Word. Consider the following verses: Psalm 19:7 (ESV) says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” James 1:25 says, “But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out—he will be blessed in what he does.”

When we hear and obey God’s Word, God blesses us. There is no revival apart from God’s Word. Therefore, if we are going to experience revival, we must give great attention to reading Scripture, listening to it, memorizing it, and obeying it. Because many neglect God’s Word, they never experience revival. It bores them. They would rather watch TV, play video games, listen to music, hang out with friends, or a host of other things—anything but spending time in the Bible. Therefore, revival tarries.

In Nehemiah 8, when Israel experienced a great revival, it began with them listening to the Word of God read and preached from dawn till noon—six hours! And the whole time they heard it, they stood. When they meditated on God’s Word and honored it, the Lord brought a great revival. They cried, repented, and committed to following God’s laws. Revivals throughout history have followed the same pattern. They were marked by a deep reverence for God’s Word. Sadly, in most churches today, if the preacher goes over thirty minutes, people start fidgeting, falling asleep, or getting angry. We don’t honor God’s Word corporately or individually, and therefore, revival tarries.

Instead of protecting us, as seen with God’s terror falling on the surrounding peoples, God often intentionally allows threats in our lives—meant to shake us and turn us to his Word. Psalm 119:67 says, “Before I was afflicted I used to stray off, but now I keep your instructions.”

Are you devoted to God’s Word? How is God calling you to study it, listen to it, meditate on it, and obey it more? This is a step towards revival that can’t be missed.

Application Question: In what ways is revival attached to studying, obeying, and honoring God’s Word? How have you experienced revival in times when you were most devoted to Scripture? How is God calling you back to a special devotion to Scripture?

To Experience Revival, We Must Remove All Spiritual Hindrances

So Jacob told his household and all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes… So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods that were in their possession and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob buried them under the oak near Shechem

Genesis 35:2, 4

After God told Jacob to return to Bethel and before departing, Jacob immediately called his family to repent. They were to get rid of their foreign gods, purify themselves, and change their clothes. What gods was Jacob referring to? When Rachel left Haran, she stole her father’s idols (Gen 31:19). It seems that Jacob never took them from her. She was syncretic—worshiping Yahweh and other gods. Over time, this, no doubt, spread throughout Jacob’s household and especially to Rachel’s children and servants. Probably, when Jacob’s sons raided Shechem—taking their goods—they probably also took the idols. They even were carrying special earrings, which represented the various gods and were used for divine protection.2

Though Jacob was aware of all this, it seems he never previously commanded his family and servants to get rid of them. He just allowed idolatry to exist in his home. The people of Israel had started to look like the pagans surrounding them. When Jacob calls his household to purify themselves and change their clothes, these acts were symbolic of a change of character (cf. Eph 4:22-24, Jude 23). When they purified themselves, they probably washed their bodies. Jacob’s household was to start anew.

We must do the same. To experience revival, we must get rid of all spiritual hindrances in our lives. We must get rid of any idols. Idols aren’t necessarily tiny figurine gods that we worship. Idols are anything that draw our focus and attention away from God. Anything we put our trust in over him. Sometimes they can be pleasures like entertainment, a hobby, or sports. Sometimes they can be people like friends, family, or a dating relationship. Sometimes they can be things like a job, car, or money.

In order to experience revival, everything must be in its proper place—under God. God uses our jobs to provide for us. But we must never look at our job as our Provider. God is the one who gave us the job, and he is the one who will lead us to a new one when it’s time. He is the one who provides for our future—giving direction and meeting our present and future needs. That’s why we can seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things will be added to us (Matt 6:33). As long as we are doing God’s will, we will experience God’s provisions.

There is always a danger of idolizing our gifts instead of the Giver of every good gift (Jam 1:17). For this reason, we must guard our hearts (Prov 4:23). Like the rich man, sometimes we need to give away certain things, as their influence is too strong on us (Matt 19). At other times, we simply must give less time to those things and not be engrossed in them (1 Cor 7:31). At all times, God must be first.

First Peter 2:1-2 says, “So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation.” We must rid ourselves of all evil, so we can “yearn”—meaning hunger for the things of God. Many of us lack hunger for the things of God because we are clinging to things that are sinful and worldly.

What are your spiritual hindrances? What keeps you from hungering for the things of God—his Word, prayer, church, worship, and serving—and experiencing revival?

Application Question: What are the idols in your life—areas of undue influence or pleasure that threaten and hinder your relationship with God? How is God calling you to bury your idols, wash your body, and change your clothes in order to re-focus on him?

To Experience Revival, We Must Practice the Discipline of Worship

He built an altar there and named the place El Bethel because there God had revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother… So Jacob set up a sacred stone pillar in the place where God spoke with him. He poured out a drink offering on it, and then he poured oil on it. Jacob named the place where God spoke with him Bethel… Jacob set up a marker over her grave; it is the Marker of Rachel’s Grave to this day.

Genesis 35:7, 14-15, 20

When Jacob returned to Bethel, he built an altar in obedience to God’s command. He called it El Bethel, which means “God of Bethel” (v. 7). The Israelites had many sacred places. They were sacred because of something God had done at those places—Mount Sinai, Jerusalem, the Jordan River, Bethel, etc. However, Jacob, who seems to have grown in maturity, is not as concerned with the place of experiencing God, but with God himself. That’s why he renamed it, “God of Bethel.” Both the altar and the renaming of the place represented Jacob’s worship—his desire to honor God. Though he had just experienced tragic events and was despised and threatened by the pagans around him, Jacob worshiped the living God in the midst of his difficulties.

While at Bethel, God spoke to him again (v. 10-12). After hearing the Divine message, Jacob set up a sacred pillar and poured a drink offering and oil on it (v. 14). He consecrated it as a place of worship. Immediately after, “Jacob named the place where God spoke with him Bethel” (v. 15). Since he had previously named the area Bethel (Gen 28:19), this probably was a public declaration. Everybody else needed to know that this was the “house of God.” Later, after Jacob’s wife Rachel died, he also put a pillar over her tomb (v. 20). Though the NET calls the pillar a “marker” (v. 20), it’s the same Hebrew word used in verse 14. Thus, the NIV and ESV translate it “pillar.” No doubt, it was a memorial of Rachel, but it also was a place of honor for God. (1) Jacob worshiped when he got to Bethel, as he built an altar. (2) He worshiped after God spoke to him, as he built a pillar and consecrated it. (3) Then he worshiped again, as he built another pillar right over Rachel’s grave. Even, potentially, Jacob’s greatest trial could not stop him from worship.

Similarly, if we are going to experience revival and sustain it, we also must constantly worship God. The opposite of worship could be said to be complaining or being bitter. Bitterness can destroy revival or hinder it from taking place, both in our lives and others. Hebrews 12:15 (ESV) says, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Likewise, 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19 says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” When we’re not giving thanks to God in our various circumstances, but instead complaining, we miss God’s grace and quench his Spirit. We quench the joy, peace, patience, and perseverance, he can give us.

If we are going to experience revival, we must learn to live a life of worship. Like Job, in the midst of trials, we must cry out, “The Lord gives and he takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 paraphrase). Like Jacob, we must build altars and pillars everywhere, even in the midst of threats and tragedies.

Application Question: Why is worship so important for revival?

  1. Worship reminds us of the greatness of God and how everything else, even our trials, are minute in comparison. This is why Christ taught us to begin our prayers, not with our problems, but with petitions for God’s name to be hallowed (Matt 6:9)—to be worshiped. Worship helps remind us that God is greater than our problems and that he is sovereign over them.
  2. Worship silences the competing voices around us—worry, anxiety, criticism, etc. When we worship, these voices get quieter and the Lord’s voice gets louder. We need to hear our Lord’s voice at all times, but especially during trials.
  3. Worship builds our faith. It breeds courage, forgiveness, and peace, as we trust in our Father.

Are you worshiping God despite your circumstances? Worship is an integral step to experiencing revival, individually and corporately.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced God’s peace and strength, as you worshiped in the midst of your circumstances? How is God calling you to grow in public and private worship?

To Experience Revival, We Must Remember Past Times of Special Grace

He built an altar there and named the place El Bethel because there God had revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother… God appeared to Jacob again after he returned from Paddan Aram and blessed him. God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but your name will no longer be called Jacob; Israel will be your name.” So God named him Israel. Then God said to him, “I am the sovereign God. Be fruitful and multiply! A nation—even a company of nations—will descend from you; kings will be among your descendants! The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you. To your descendants I will also give this land.” Then God went up from the place where he spoke with him. So Jacob set up a sacred stone pillar in the place where God spoke with him. He poured out a drink offering on it, and then he poured oil on it. Jacob named the place where God spoke with him Bethel.

Genesis 35:7, 9-15

It’s interesting to consider that at Bethel, God doesn’t say many new things to Jacob; he reminds him mostly of old things. When God speaks, he again calls Jacob, “Israel” (v. 10). He repeats promises already given to him—that he would become a nation and the land of Canaan would be given to him (v. 11-12). The only new things seem to be the fact that God uses the name El Shaddai, “Sovereign God” or “God Almighty” and that God mentions that kings will come from him (v. 11). When speaking to Abraham in Genesis 17, God also used the name El Shaddai and mentioned that kings would come through his line. God was re-confirming his covenant with Jacob, while adding a little more information.

When we experience revival, God often does the same with us. Many times, we think that we need new revelation to experience revival or change in our lives. However, this is seldom the case. Often, we just need a fresh revelation of what we already know—who God is, what he has promised us, and who he says we are. We need to remember that God is sovereign—in control of all our circumstances (Eph 1:11), that he is loving (1 John 4:8), and that he works all things for our good (Rom 8:28). To revive us, God often has to take us back to our Bethel experiences—times of renewal when he spoke to us through the Word, prayer, worship, and godly brothers and sisters.

Therefore, to experience revival, we also need to continually return to Bethel. Pastor Bruce Goettsche said it this way:

We need to learn to think differently. If we were as good at remembering the good times in our life as we are replaying the hurts, we would be so much better off. We are prone to nurse a grudge and forget a kindness. We dwell on a failure but dismiss a victory. And as a result, things get distorted. When our spiritual lives begin to feel stale and unfruitful, we need to take a trip back to Bethel,

-- remember the day you met Christ and how your life changed because of Him

-- recount the circumstances and people that God used to lead you to His grace

-- re-read a book that stirred your soul

-- compare who you are (by God’s grace) with who you used to be

-- walk through the church and remember special times you have had in the various rooms

-- review some of your favorite passages of scripture

-- recall the spiritual teachers and leaders that have impacted you (I like to let my eyes browse over the books on my shelves and think of the way God has used these authors to teach and mold me).

Looking back . . . gaining perspective is only one step in the process but it is a valuable step and an important step.3

The first time God met with Jacob at Bethel (Gen 28), he was preparing him for twenty difficult years of working for Laban. When God wrestled with Jacob and originally named him Israel (Gen 32), he was strengthening him to meet Esau. Now, in his second stint at Bethel (Gen 35), God was encouraging Jacob as he faced the threat of the pagans and future traumatic events which happened shortly after, like the death of Rachel.

How is God calling you to return to Bethel? How is God calling you to remind yourself of who God is, what his promises are, and who he says you are?

This is one of the reasons why the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are so important. Baptism is a visual reminder of what has happened to us spiritually at salvation. It’s one of the Bethel altars, we should always return to. When we went under the water, it pictured our dying to sin in Christ. When we rose out of the water, it pictured our rising with him from the dead to live new lives—righteous lives. Similarly, the practice of the Lord’s Supper is a continual reminder of Christ’s death and therefore our forgiveness of sins and his future coming. These are just some of the ways we return to Bethel and experience revival in our hearts.

Application Question: What are some significant Bethel experiences that you need to remind yourself of for encouragement, strength, and revival? How do you remind yourself of them? Is there a discipline or practice that you employ?

To Experience Revival, We Must Respond in Faith to Our Trials

(Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak below Bethel; thus it was named Oak of Weeping.) … They traveled on from Bethel, and when Ephrath was still some distance away, Rachel went into labor—and her labor was hard. When her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you are having another son.” With her dying breath, she named him Ben-Oni. But his father called him Benjamin instead… Then Israel traveled on and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. While Israel was living in that land, Reuben had sexual relations with Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Israel heard about it… So Jacob came back to his father Isaac in Mamre, to Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lived to be 180 years old. Then Isaac breathed his last and joined his ancestors. He died an old man who had lived a full life. His sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Genesis 35:8, 16-18, 21-22, 27-29

Trials are both a catalyst for revival in our lives and, at the same time, potentially a detriment to revival. God uses trials to help us grow and know him more. But, Satan uses them to draw us away from God. As with Job, Satan uses trials to tempt us to curse God. Similarly, after Jacob’s Bethel experience, trials came with the potential of continuing to ignite the flames of revival or extinguish them. Jacob faced many new trials: (1) First, Rebekah’s nurse, Deborah, died (v. 8). In Scripture, she was never mentioned by name before this text. When Rebekah left Haran to marry Isaac, Genesis 24:59 says her “female attendant” went with her, which was probably Deborah. She was probably around 150 years old.4 She had nursed Jacob, and at some point, probably after Rebekah’s death, came to live with Jacob and helped care for his children. Obviously, she was dearly loved, as she was buried under a tree, which they named “Oak of Weeping.” (2) Then, Jacob experienced the death of Rachel (v. 18), who was his favorite wife. He worked fourteen years to attain her. She died while giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth son, Benjamin.

(3) Next, after Rachel died, Jacob experienced betrayal, as his oldest son, Reuben, had sexual relations with Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah (v. 22)—who was also Jacob’s concubine. Why did Reuben do this? We can only speculate. Possibly, since Rachel was always Jacob’s favored wife, Reuben hoped to remove a potential rival to Jacob’s affection for his mother Leah. By sleeping with Bilhah, Jacob would have despised her and may have been more inclined toward Leah, who was always desperate for his affections (Gen 29). Another potential reason was that Reuben was trying to claim his right of firstborn. “Near-Eastern custom held that the possession of the concubines of a man’s father or vanquished enemies validated succession.”5 This is why Absalom, the son of David, publicly laid with his father’s concubines, after taking the kingdom from him (2 Sam 16:22). Like the prodigal son, Reuben was trying to claim his inheritance then and not later (Luke 15). (4) Finally, Jacob experienced the death of Isaac, his father (v. 29). Both Jacob and Esau buried him after he lived to 180 years old. All of these negative experiences were opportunities for revival or threats to it in Jacob’s life.

How does Jacob respond to these trials? Did he respond in faith or with a lack of faith? It seems that he responded faithfully. We see this in several ways: After Rachel’s death, as mentioned, Jacob builds a pillar, which seemed to be a memorial for her but also a way to worship God (v. 20). Also, he renames their child Benjamin—”son of my right hand”—instead of keeping the name Benoni—”son of my sorrows” (v. 18). Jacob refused to see his son in a negative light. He saw Benjamin as his strength, which the right hand represented. Also, there are further hints that Jacob responded in faith. The fact that the narrator uses the name “Israel” right after Rachel’s death in verse 18 and also after Reuben’s betrayal in verse 22, seems to imply that Jacob was living according to his new name—”God commands”—in the midst of these tragedies. Though he doesn’t seem to judge Reuben immediately, at his death, he does eventually remove the right of the firstborn from him and gives it to Joseph’s sons (Gen 49:3-4). First Chronicles 5:1 says, “The sons of Reuben, Israel’s firstborn—(Now he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph, Israel’s son.”

Experiencing revival doesn’t necessarily remove trials from our lives; as with Jacob, trials tend to follow revivals. Often it is right after a wonderful experience at church or going to a retreat that a major temptation will confront us. This is why youth often experience great highs during a retreat and really low, lows after. Temptations often follow periods of revival. It was right after Christ’s baptism and the Holy Spirit falling on him, that he was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Also, it was right after the Mount of Transfiguration that Christ confronted the demon in the boy and his disciples’ failure to cast him out (Matt 17). Though revivals don’t guarantee the removal of trials, if properly used, they do provide strength to confront them. After Jacob’s revival, he confronted four strong tests. In them, he responded as Israel and not as Jacob. By doing this, he continued to stoke the fires of revival in his life, instead of allowing them to be blown out.

How are you responding to your trials? They represent both opportunities and threats for revival. Are you confronting them with faith or with doubt, with joy or with bitterness, in the Spirit or in the flesh? Are you confronting them as Israel or as Jacob? May the Lord give us grace to confront them as Israel—with faith, joy, and in the power of the Spirit.

Application Question: What are your current trials, which God is aiming to use for your good and Satan for your bad? How is God calling you to respond to them in faith, like Israel, and not in the flesh, like Jacob?

Conclusion

How can we experience revival in our lives and our communities?

  1. To Experience Revival, We Must Recognize Our Desperate Need for God
  2. To Experience Revival, We Must Hear and Respond to God’s Word
  3. To Experience Revival, We Must Remove All Spiritual Hindrances
  4. To Experience Revival, We Must Practice the Discipline of Worship
  5. To Experience Revival, We Must Remember Past Times of Special Grace
  6. To Experience Revival, We Must Respond in Faith to Our Trials

Copyright © 2018 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Boice, J. M. (1998). Genesis: an expositional commentary (p. 836). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

2 Getz, Gene. Men of Character: Jacob (Kindle Locations 3604-3607). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

3 Pastor Bruce Goettsche’s sermon on Genesis 35, accessed June 1, 2018, from http://www.unionchurch.com/archive/101799.html

4 Boice, J. M. (1998). Genesis: an expositional commentary (pp. 839–840). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

5 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (pp. 424–425). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Related Topics: Character Study, Christian Life

Appendix 1: Study Group Tips

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Leading a small group using the Bible Teacher’s Guide can be done in various ways. One format is the “study group” model, where each member prepares and shares in the teaching. This appendix will cover tips for facilitating a weekly study group.

  1. Each week the members of the study group read through a selected chapter of the guide, answer the reflection questions (see Appendix 2), and come prepared to share in the group.
  2. Prior to each meeting, a different member is selected to lead the group and share his answer to Question 1 of the reflection questions, which is a short summary of the chapter read. This section of the gathering could last from five to fifteen minutes. This way, each member can develop his ability to teach and will be motivated to study harder during the week. Or, each week the same person could share the summary.
  3. After the summary has been given, the leader for that week facilitates discussion of the remaining reflection questions and selected questions from the chapter.
  4. After discussion, the group shares prayer requests and members pray for one another.

The strength of the study group is that the members are required to prepare their responses before the meeting, allowing for easier discussion. Another is that each member has the opportunity to further develop his ministry skills through teaching. These are distinct advantages.

Copyright © 2018 Gregory Brown

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.

Appendix 2: Reflection Questions

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Writing is one of the best ways to learn. In class, we take notes and write papers, and all these methods are used to help us learn and retain the material. The same is true with the Word of God. Obviously, all of the authors of Scripture were writers. This helped them better learn the Scriptures and also enabled them to more effectively teach it. In studying God’s Word with the Bible Teacher’s Guide, take time to write so you can similarly grow both in your learning and teaching.

  1. How would you summarize the main points of the text/chapter? Write a brief summary.
  2. What stood out to you most in the reading? Did any of the contents trigger any memories or experiences? If so, please share them.
  3. What follow–up questions do you have about the reading? Are there parts you do not fully agree with?
  4. What applications did you take from the reading, and how do you plan to implement them in your life?
  5. Write several goals: As a result of my time studying God’s Word, I aspire to . . .
  6. What are some practical ways to pray as a result of studying the text? Spend some time in prayer.

Copyright © 2018 Gregory Brown

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.

Appendix 3: Walking the Romans Road

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How can a person be saved? From what is he saved? How can someone have eternal life? Scripture teaches that after death each person will spend eternity either in heaven or hell. How can a person go to heaven?

Paul said this to Timothy:

You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 3:14-15

One of the reasons God gave us Scripture is to make us wise for salvation. This means that without it nobody can know how to be saved.

Well then, how can a people be saved and what are they being saved from? A common method of sharing the good news of salvation is through the Romans Road. One of the great themes, not only of the Bible, but specifically of the book of Romans is salvation. In Romans, the author, Paul, clearly details the steps we must take in order to be saved.

How can we be saved? What steps must we take?

Step One: We Must Accept that We Are Sinners

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” What does it mean to sin? The word sin means “to miss the mark.” The mark we missed is looking like God. When God created mankind in the Genesis narrative, he created man in the “image of God” (1:27). The “image of God” means many things, but probably, most importantly it means we were made to be holy just as he is holy. Man was made moral. We were meant to reflect God’s holiness in every way: the way we think, the way we talk, and the way we act. And any time we miss the mark in these areas, we commit sin.

Furthermore, we do not only sin when we commit a sinful act such as: lying, stealing, or cheating. Again, we sin anytime we have a wrong heart motive. The greatest commandments in Scripture are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:36-40, paraphrase). Whenever we don’t love God supremely and love others as ourselves, we sin and fall short of the glory of God. For this reason, man is always in a state of sinning. Sadly, even if our actions are good, our heart is bad. I have never loved God with my whole heart, mind, and soul and neither has anybody else. Therefore, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). We have all missed the mark of God’s holiness and we must accept this.

What’s the next step?

Step Two: We Must Understand We Are Under the Judgment of God

Why are we under the judgment of God? It is because of our sins. Scripture teaches God is not only a loving God, but he is a just God. And his justice requires judgment for each of our sins. Romans 6:23 says, “For the payoff of sin is death.”

A wage is something we earn. Every time we sin, we earn the wage of death. What is death? Death really means separation. In physical death, the body is separated from the spirit, but in spiritual death, man is separated from God. Man currently lives in a state of spiritual death (cf. Eph 2:1-3). We do not love God, obey him, or know him as we should. Therefore, man is in a state of death.

Moreover, one day at our physical death, if we have not been saved, we will spend eternity separated from God in a very real hell. In hell, we will pay the wage for each of our sins. Therefore, in hell people will experience various degrees of punishment (cf. Lk 12:47-48). This places man in a very dangerous predicament—unholy and therefore under the judgment of God.

How should we respond to this? This leads us to our third step.

Step Three: We Must Recognize God Has Invited All to Accept His Free Gift of Salvation

Romans 6:23 does not stop at the wages of sin being death. It says, “For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because God loved everybody on the earth, he offered the free gift of eternal life, which anyone can receive through Jesus Christ.

Because it is a gift, it cannot be earned. We cannot work for it. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Going to church, being baptized, giving to the poor, or doing any other righteous work does not save. Salvation is a gift that must be received from God. It is a gift that has been prepared by his effort alone.

How do we receive this free gift?

Step Four: We Must Believe Jesus Christ Died for Our Sins and Rose from the Dead

If we are going to receive this free gift, we must believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Because God loved us, cared for us, and didn’t want us to be separated from him eternally, he sent his Son to die for our sins. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Similarly, John 3:16 says, “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” God so loved us that he gave his only Son for our sins.

Jesus Christ was a real, historical person who lived 2,000 years ago. He was born of a virgin. He lived a perfect life. He was put to death by the Romans and the Jews. And he rose again on the third day. In his death, he took our sins and God’s wrath for them and gave us his perfect righteousness so we could be accepted by God. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” God did all this so we could be saved from his wrath.

Christ’s death satisfied the just anger of God over our sins. When God saw Jesus on the cross, he saw us and our sins and therefore judged Jesus. And now, when God sees those who are saved, he sees his righteous Son and accepts us. In salvation, we have become the righteousness of God.

If we are going to be saved, if we are going to receive this free gift of salvation, we must believe in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for our sins (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-5, Rom 10:9-10). Do you believe?

Step Five: We Must Confess Christ as Lord of Our Lives

Romans 10:9-10 says,

Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.

Not only must we believe, but we must confess Christ as Lord of our lives. It is one thing to believe in Christ but another to follow Christ. Simple belief does not save. Christ must be our Lord. James said this: “…Even the demons believe that – and tremble with fear” (James 2:19), but the demons are not saved—Christ is not their Lord.

Another aspect of making Christ Lord is repentance. Repentance really means a change of mind that leads to a change of direction. Before we met Christ, we were living our own life and following our own sinful desires. But when we get saved, our mind and direction change. We start to follow Christ as Lord.

How do we make this commitment to the lordship of Christ so we can be saved? Paul said we must confess with our mouth “Jesus is Lord” as we believe in him. Romans 10:13 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

If you admit that you are a sinner and understand you are under God’s wrath because of them; if you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for your sins, and rose from the dead for your salvation; if you are ready to turn from your sin and cling to Christ as Lord, you can be saved.

If this is your heart, then you can pray this prayer and commit to following Christ as your Lord.

Dear heavenly Father, I confess I am a sinner and have fallen short of your glory, what you made me for. I believe Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and rose from the dead so I can have eternal life. I am turning away from my sin and accepting you as my Lord and Savior. Come into my life and change me. Thank you for your gift of salvation.

Scripture teaches that if you truly accepted Christ as your Lord, then you are a new creation. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!” God has forgiven your sins (1 John 1:9), he has given you his Holy Spirit (Rom 8:15), and he is going to disciple you and make you into the image of his Son (cf. Rom 8:29). He will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5), and he will complete the work he has begun in your life (Phil 1:6). In heaven, angels and saints are rejoicing because of your commitment to Christ (Lk 15:7).

Praise God for his great salvation! May God keep you in his hand, empower you through the Holy Spirit, train you through mature believers, and use you to build his kingdom! “He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this” (1 Thess 5:24). God bless you!

Copyright © 2018 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.

In Praise Of God

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The psalmists praised the Lord for many things. The psalmist in Psalm 111 praises God for his eternal actions:

The works of his hand are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.

They are steadfast forever and ever,
done in faithfulness and uprightness.

He provided redemption for his people;
He ordained his covenant forever –
holy and awesome is his name. (Ps. 111:7-9)1

As Futato remarks, “Praise the Lord for who he is: Glorious and majestic, gracious and merciful, just and good. Praise the Lord for what he has done. He has provided the full ransom and the instruction needed to live a life of purpose and significance.”2 Thus, the Lord’s word is praised and shown to be basic to the believer’s life:

Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you establish the earth and it endures. (Ps. 119:89-90; cf. Ps 111:9).

The psalmist, King David, points out that the Lord has “granted him eternal blessings” and “made him glad with the joy of the Lord’s presence” and that because he “trusts in the Lord” and therefore, the unfailing love of the Most High will not be shaken” (Ps. 21:6-7). Furthermore,

You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Ps. 16:11; cf. Ecc. 12:5b).

The Old Testament passages find even greater fulfillment in the life of Jesus, as attested in the book of John. There Jesus tells his disciples:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one (Jn 10:27-30; cf. Jn. 12:49-50).

It is of great interest to note that Jesus declares his oneness with God the Father. As Kostenberger observes: ”For Jesus to be one with the Father yet distinct from him amounts to a claim to deity (cf. John 1:1-2) … Jesus’ unity with the Father later constitutes the basis on which Jesus prays that his followers likewise will be unified (John 17:22)”.3

Granted the assurance of this fact, today’s believers are challenged to live in harmony and unity with fellow believers. Even so, John has spoken of Jesus’ assurance that “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; for he crossed over from death to life” (Jn. 5:24; cf. vv. 39-40). Yes, Jesus is the ultimate source of mankind’s eternal life. As Jesus told Nicodemus, the Pharisee, “Everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:15-16). The singular importance of this fact lies behind the Apostle John’s further teaching that, “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him (Jn. 3:35-36). As Jesus said elsewhere, “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:40; cf. Jn 17:1-2). As Kostenberger remarks “Precisely because the believer’s future raising up by Jesus is a certainty, it can be said that they have eternal life already in the here and now.”4 So it is that the true believer is assured of eternal life with the Lord (cf. Jude 1-2). Thus, Jude goes on to say:

Dear Friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 20-21).

May each of us, then, who are genuine believers wait expectantly, enjoying intimate fellowship with the Lord. As I have pointed out elsewhere, as Christ’s followers, believers should be faithful in all things, even such matters as the course of their daily tasks and contacts. This should be their constant, consistent goal and desire throughout their lives. … May each believer be ever faithful to the end, mindful of the resurrected, risen Christ’s charge to the church in Smyrna: “Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life itself” (Rev 2:10).5

As the hymn write says:

True-hearted, whole-hearted, faithful and loyal,
King of our lives by the grace we will be.6


1 All scripture references are from the NIV.

2 Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms”, in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream, Il., Tyndale House, 2009), VII:353.

3 Andreas J. Kostenberger, “John” in Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 312.

4 IBID, 212.

5 Richard D. Patterson, “Faithful to the End”, (Bible.Org, 2015).

6 Frances R. Havergal, “True-Hearted, Whole-Hearted”.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Devotionals

The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 31 Spring 2019

Spring 2019 Edition

A ministry of…

Author: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 519-620-2375

Part I: Strengthening Expository Preaching

“Strengthening Illustrations”

A. Why Illustrate?

1. Because The Bible Is Full Of Illustrations

Since God has chosen to communicate a large portion of his Word to us in stories, surely this should guide preachers in their communication of the Word. God undoubtedly used stories to communicate his truth because they are a powerful medium to which human beings respond and which they understand. To not use stories in preaching is to miss a significant communications methodology that God has used and endorsed, and to fail to communicate the truth in relevant, illuminative ways.

2. Because Illustrations Go Hand-In-Hand With “Explanation” And “Application”

Illustrations help us explain and apply the truth in relevant, clear, understandable ways. Thus, when you preach truth in its application to real life situations, you should be able to illustrate it!

Some preachers think that you leave the application of the Word to the Holy Spirit alone to make it clear and relevant to life. While it is true that only the Holy Spirit can make the Word so clear and convicting that a person’s life is changed, nonetheless let’s not forget that the Holy Spirit uses the medium of preaching to make the Word relevant and applicable to life and He has given us the biblical precedent of illustrations to make those applications live.

We must not only tell our people what to do, but give examples of how to do it, or how someone else’s life was impacted through the Word.

3. Because Illustrations Help Overcome The “So What?” Hump

Illustrations get the preacher past the threshold of the audience’s attention and into their minds, hearts, wills, and consciences. Illustrations can often show a listener why they need this sermon; why it applies to them.

Illustrations can be a very helpful tool in getting past people’s “what-does-this-have-to-do-with me” objections because they are non-threatening, non-adversarial. They do not incite people’s objections. They are arms length, third party examples.

B. Some Purposes And Types Of Illustrations

1. Some Purposes Of Illustrations

a) To clarify the truth

b) To simplify the truth

c) To picture the truth

d) To concretize the truth (i.e. make the truth tangible, visible, real)

e) To emphasize the truth

f) To provide additional authority for the message

g) To express the truth in a different way

2. Some Types And Sources Of Illustrations

a) Biblical narratives, statements, and proverbs often make the best illustrations.

But a word of warning: Be careful in using Bible stories as illustrations. Bible stories were given to make a point, not to supply a source of illustrations for subsequent preachers. While it is alright to use biblical stories to illustrate a point, generally it is better to quote the Bible for its authority and teaching rather than to illustrate a point (though I would not be dogmatic on this).

b) Church history, biography, testimony.

c) Secular history, literature, information.

d) Allegory, parable, fable, story.

e) Anecdote, quotation, statistics.

f) Personal experience, contemporary testimony. The best illustrations are often a “slice-of-life” - an experience, whether yours or someone else’s. These experiences make good illustrations because…

  • everyone can identify with them
  • they are “real”
  • they are relevant and contemporary
  • they need no interpretation to apply to people’s lives

“Slice-of-life” illustrations require that you be observant about…

  • people’s hurts, wants, needs, relationships, occupations, hardships
  • contemporary news items that speak to people’s hearts and consciences
  • what people say, think, and do
  • how people speak, think, act, and react
  • how you react, think, speak, and act (so that you identify with others within yourself). Without always speaking about yourself, typically, what happens to you, and how you act is representative of almost everyone else.

g) Literary devices such as figures of speech (similes, metaphors, contrasts and comparisons), word pictures, word plays.

h) Object lessons like visual aids and presentations.

i) Contemporary news, slogans, statements, events. You can find these sources of illustrations as you read newspapers and magazines, or listen to the radio or TV – secular broadcast media know more than anyone else what people want, where they hurt, how they live.

j) General life observations, experiences.

k) Examples from nature – e.g. a moth changing into a butterfly might be an illustration of the transformation of the Christian.

C. The Placement Of Illustrations

1. Where To Place Them In The Flow Of The Sermon

Decide where in your sermon you would get the most benefit from an illustration and / or where it is most needed. You don’t need illustrations for every point of your sermon.

The strategic location of illustrations has much more impact than how many you have.

However, there are some obvious places where you need an illustration:

a) The introduction. A well-chosen illustration gets attention, raises interest, introduces the subject, and identifies the need.

b) Major points. I don’t feel obligated to have an illustration for every main point. In fact that may not be possible or desirable or necessary. But somewhere in the body of your sermon you need to illustrate what you are speaking on, if for no other reason than to give a break from the teaching of the sermon - i.e. to give mental relief for the audience.

c) The conclusion. If you can find a suitable illustration for the conclusion it will make it more powerful and more memorable. Again, this may not always be possible, desirable, or necessary.

Here are some questions to help you think through the placement, number, and type of illustrations [These question derived from Ramesh Richard, Preparing Expository Sermons (Baker), 126]:

a) Is an illustration necessary to clarify or explain a point or section of the sermon?

b) Would an illustration answer the audience’s implicit questions: “how, why, when”?

c) Would an illustration make the point more credible, believable, acceptable?

d) What kind of illustration would introduce the audience to the possible implications and applications of the point?

2. How To Place Them In The Flow Of The Sermon

The illustration has more connectedness and impact when you move in the following order:

a) Make the point.

b) Transition to the illustration. It is most helpful to smooth into your illustration by means of a transitionary statement – such as: “I discovered the reality of this recently when…” or some such statement.

c) Illustrate the point.

d) Possibly, transition to the audience by applying it, or exhorting them to respond to the illustration, although this is not necessary.

e) Restate the point or carry on with the development of the point, or transition to the next point.

D. Twenty Do’s And Don’ts Of Illustrations

1. Don’t use the same type of illustration all the time

E.g. sports which generally appeal mainly to men and only some men.

2. Don’t use your own family as illustrations

As a general rule, leave your family out of your sermons . They have enough exposure as it is. Though they will generally give you their permission to use a personal illustration, they often don’t think about the consequences or implications, so leave them out.

3. Don’t use anyone in your congregation, unless it is to compliment them and only then with their permission.

4. Don’t ever use anything confidential, even if it is couched in non-personal language. The person will see himself or herself in the story and you will lost your credibility with that person.

5. Always give brief credit for your sources

You lose impact if citing the source takes away from attention to the illustration or becomes boring. Generally, I record in my sermon notes the details of the source, but in preaching I only give the author’s name or the name of the source (e.g. newspaper).

If you don’t know the source (or, if you don’t want to spell it out), simply say: “Someone said” or “I read somewhere”, so that you give credit where it is due and you don’t try to make it look like your own.

Illustrations in the public domain generally need no acknowledgement as to their source.

6. Don’t use the same illustration twice with the same audience

You run the risk of boring your audience if you repeat illustrations.

7. Don’t use an illustration that dominates the point it illustrates

Make sure every illustration serves the truth and doesn’t dominate it. Explanation and application of the truth are the central focus of our preaching – that is what the Holy Spirit can take and use to change lives. We are preachers first and foremost, not story-tellers

You want people to remember the truth through the illustration. They will certainly remember illustrations; just make sure they remember what they illustrate.

8. Don’t twist an illustration to make it fit just because it is a good illustration

Good illustrations are powerful and preachers have the tendency to want to use them. This leads to the tendency to use them incorrectly and inappropriately. It is one thing to adjust an illustration of a general nature (like “the story of the little boy who…”) to fit the story, but no illustration should be twisted to fit your sermon.

9. Learn to communicate illustrations well

This is a learned art. Watch the reaction of your audience to determine its effect.

10. Place your illustrations strategically for the most impact

The most strategic placements are at the beginning and the end – at the beginning to generate attention; at the end to drive the point home and cause them to remember what you said.

11. Keep your illustrations short

Long illustrations tend to lose focus on what is being illustrated. Long illustrations have to be right the first time (no second chance – once you’re into it you’re into it) and have the intended impact or else you lose your audience, you come out looking bad, and you waste valuable time.

On the other hand, if a short illustration doesn’t have the impact you want, you can move on without any great embarrassment or loss of time. Also, short illustrations are easier to remember and easier to deliver without notes. Illustrations delivered without notes have the greatest impact.

12. Make sure your illustrations are accurate in detail and authorship

If you are not accurate, you lose credibility. Historical data must be accurate. Literary quotations (e.g. poems) must be accurate. Statistical data must be accurate.

13. Make sure your illustrations suit your audience

Take into account cultural issues like figures of speech, social practices, historical relevance, humour etc. This becomes very important when speaking to audiences in a different culture than your own (e.g. overseas).

Universal illustrations have to do with life’s experiences, nature, history, and things like that.

14. Don’t use too many illustrations

If you load your sermon with illustrations your audience will get tired of them and they will conclude that you did not prepare well. At most, an illustration for each major point is usually enough.

15. Don’t use illustrations that are not credible

Test every illustration: “Is this likely…believable…logical…realistic?” If not, don’t use it (even if it’s true) or you will destroy your credibility.

16. Be very careful with the use of humor

Humour should only be used if it is natural – i.e. not jokes! If an illustration or experience is funny and it suits your biblical topic, then use it. That’s different from a joke, which is a made-up scenario. Remember, funny incidents that the audience doesn’t find funny only detract from the effectiveness of your message, so be careful. Don’t use any humour that could be construed as off color or inappropriate (such as anything that could be construed as a racial slur).

17. Don’t refer to yourself repeatedly

People usually love their pastor but enough is enough. They want to hear more than just what happened in your life (when you were young, as you grew up, incidents in you previous church etc.). I would recommend that you stay away from references to your previous church. If you talk about it, then your audience can legitimately conclude that you will talk about them to others as well. It’s not professional nor necessary nor appropriate.

18. Don’t be too graphic

We are there to draw attention to God and his truth not to graphic illustrations. Generally, graphic language or illustrations turn people off.

19. Don’t use worn out illustrations

Stories that every preacher tells are a no-no. Be original. That takes work and research, but it’s worth it.

20. Make sure your illustrations illustrate the point

Sometimes you can listen to a preacher’s illustration and say: “What did that have to do with the subject?” Like humour, an illustration must be intuitively obvious as to what it means and how it illustrates and connects with the point you are trying to make. You should not have to explain it or, again like humour, it falls flat.

Part II. Transformational Leadership

“The Profile of a Christian Leader”

What does a Christian leader look like? Who is he in his person, character, abilities, attitudes, lifestyle, spirituality etc.? Clearly, the starting point is the spiritual qualifications for a church leader set out in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Tit. 1:5-9. But this is only the starting point, it seems to me. This is by no means an exhaustive list, which, if a man meets, he is necessarily qualified to be a church leader. I don't think Paul intended this to be some sort of checklist that we use without any other standards or requirements. This list says nothing about character traits like humility, courage, or wisdom, but surely these are also important aspects of a church leader’s profile. Nor does it say anything about the gift of leadership (Rom. 12:8), but surely an elder must be gifted as a leader.

So, what other aspects of character and personality or ability do you think a church leader must have? I think, apart from Paul’s criteria in 1 Tim. 3, that there are embedded in Scripture certain inalienable character and personality traits that are necessary for church leaders. I think these are best understood by dividing them into three categories:

A. Those intangible character traits that enable them to consistently make good decisions.

B. Those personality traits that impact those they lead by inspiring them to follow and obey.

C. Those “success” traits that drive the leader to achieve results, such as self-discipline, perseverance, endurance.

A. Character Traits

These traits enable leaders to consistently make good decisions. The top five on my list are: wisdom, integrity, humility, courage, and vision.

1. Wisdom

Wisdom stands at the top of my list. This is the umbrella trait under which all the others are subsumed. The question is: “What is wisdom?” Here’s my formula: Wisdom = knowledge + experience + maturity.

a) Knowledge. Knowledge is our acquaintance with facts, truths, principles etc. Knowledge is connected with learning. Special knowledge comes from our specific areas of expertise and learning, whether academic or on-the-job.

b) Experience. You cannot be wise without experience. After all, wisdom is earned and learned through life experience. Life’s school of experiential adversity knocks wisdom into you.

While experience connotes “age”, some people gain experience faster than others by virtue of their exposure to life experiences and their openness to learning from those experiences, be it at home, school, work, or society.

You could probably say that experience is where we put knowledge to work, as in an apprenticeship. After all, isn't the entirety of life, to some degree, an apprenticeship?

c) Maturity. The apostle Paul wrote: “We speak wisdom among those who are mature (1 Cor. 2:6). What is maturity? Maturity is something that is hard to define but you know it when you see it. Or, to put it another way, you know immaturity when you see it.

Maturity is acting like an adult not a child - e.g. no temper tantrums when you don’t get your own way or when things go wrong. Controlling your emotions.

Physical maturity is easy to recognize. It occurs without us doing anything. We simply reach a stage where we stop growing, cutting teeth and we look like an adult.

Emotional and psychological maturity occurs at different times for different people. Some older people never reach maturity. At 60 or 70 years old, they may still be immature in their behaviour, reactions, attitudes, and speech, while some younger people may be quite mature in those areas.

Maturity has to do with self-control, choices, how we express emotions. It’s an awareness of who we are, how we relate to others.

Maturity has to do with enduring short-term pain in order to achieve long-term gain. Immature people don’t see things that way. They want immediate self-satisfaction.

Maturity is making your word your bond. Consistency. Dependability.

Sadly, wisdom is the one trait that seems to be so lacking in church leaders today. But that’s what our churches desperately need in leadership. Note the following:

  • Solomon did not ask God for riches but for wisdom (1 Kings 3:9).
  • Jesus grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom” (Lk. 2:40) ... and he increased in wisdom and stature (2:52).
  • The leaders of Acts 6 were seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3).
  • The apostle Paul prays “… that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9).
  • Speaking of Christ, Paul says, In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
  • We are exhorted to walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time” (Col. 4:5).

Wise people usually consult others, evaluate self-performance, and engage in reflection. Wise people welcome challenging dialogue that stimulates their thinking and opinions. Wise people don't want “yes-men” around them, but people who have initiative and independent thinking.

2. Integrity

What is integrity? Integrity is sometimes defined as adherence to moral and ethical principles. Integrity is manifested in…

a) Impartiality. This means never making decisions to please people but to please God (Eph. 6:6-7; Col. 3:22-23). Doing what is right, regardless of the cost. This means never being caught in a conflict of interest. This means never favouring one person over another, regardless of who is involved. This may mean turning down someone’s kind intent so that you are not beholden to that person.

b) Transparency. Openness. No hidden agenda regardless of the consequences. This doesn’t mean that you tell everything you know necessarily (wisdom and confidentiality may dictate otherwise), but it does mean not hiding behind a veneer, being true to who you are.

c) Righteousness. Uprightness in one’s dealings.

d) Sincerity. Not being phoney. No ulterior motives. Not being hypocritical. Not putting on a pretense.

e) Honesty. Truthfulness, frankness. Freedom from deceit or guile.

f) Credibility. Acting in a way that people trust you and believe you.

g) Moral purity. This is part of personal integrity. “Pay close attention to yourself” (1 Tim. 4:16). Why? Because you cannot lead others to faith, or teach people the truth, or lead the people of God in worship, or intercede on behalf of others, unless your own life is upright and morally clean.

A Christian leader must have integrity. Your whole life must hold together – no gaps, no inconsistencies; just a unified whole.

3. Humility

What is humility? Humility is …

a) Meekness. Meekness is “not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought to think” (Rom. 12:3) – i.e. not arrogant. Meekness is “esteeming others better than yourself” (Phil. 2:3). Meekness is the attitude that says, “He must increase but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). Meekness is the attitude that says, “I am the least of the apostles and do not deserve to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9; cf. Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:15).

b) Fallibility. Fallibility is knowing and admitting that you don’t know everything. You can and do make mistakes. You don’t have all the answers.

c) Gentleness. Not bullying others to get your own way.

d) Servanthood. Not a celebrity expecting adulation from others but a person who serves others.

e) Self-consciousness. The willingness to acknowledge your weaknesses as well as your strengths.

Humility is the opposite of pride. It’s easy to become proud in ministry, particularly if there are outward signs of success in worldly terms (e. g. increase in church attendance or a new church building). Preaching, in particular, can generate pride. People’s affirmation of your preaching can go to your head.

The minute we begin to think it has anything to do with us (our credit; our merit) we are in trouble. Remember: “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). “Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6). When it’s time, He will exalt you – not yourself.

4. Courage

What is courage? Courage is not “in-your-face” boldness, not rudeness, not outspokenness. Rather, courage is doing what is right regardless of others’ opinions, despite opposition, consequences, criticism, failure, or discouragement. Courage is having a conviction as to a right course of action and carrying it out. Courage is standing for truth. Courage is confidence that, with God’s help, “we can do it”.

Remember: “God has not given us the spirit of fear…” (2 Tim. 1:7). Martin Luther, on his journey to Worms to face interrogation about his teachings, said: “You can expect from me everything, save fear or recantation. I shall not flee, much less recant.” That is courage.

Christian leadership isn’t easy. It takes courage.

It takes courage to make tough decisions - to do what is right regardless of the consequences.

Clear, good decision-making made in dependence on God is the hallmark of a good spiritual leader, like…

  • Abraham during the crisis of Sodom and the rescue of Lot (Gen. 14:14f.)
  • Moses when he decided to give up Egypt’s pleasures and power (Heb. 11:23-28)
  • Paul in the storm (Acts 27)

Every time you face a crossroad in decision-making, you will be an example of either courage or cowardice. David and Daniel were men of courage. Jonah and Gideon were men of cowardice.

It takes courage to deal with difficult situations - to face obstacles, attacks, personal criticism and opposition (from people; from Satan etc.). It takes courage to preach when you’ve been soundly criticized during the week (cf. Jer. 1:17-19). Criticism is one of the worst enemies to wear you down. It amplifies your insecurities, takes your eyes off the task at hand and onto yourself, depletes your energy and enthusiasm, makes you defensive, and isolates you.

That’s why negative, destructive criticism (judgementalism), I believe, is a tool of Satan. I believe in the biblical concepts of rebuke, exhortation, and confrontation (2 Tim. 4:2), but destructive criticism has no place among the people of God. Criticism is usually negative, destructive – it’s about what people don’t want or don’t like, not about what is honouring to God or beneficial to his people. Criticism can distort your view of ministry and of the people you minister to.

It takes courage to persevere in times of spiritual discouragement - to stay the course when discouragement sets in, when you think you’re a failure, when you work hard but it seems no one is listening or responding.

Remember: Three times God told Joshua to be strong and of good courage. Why? Because he knew the temptations and tests that Joshua would face might be discouraging to him and in which he might be tempted to take the easy way out.

5. Vision

What is vision? Vision is not a “head-in-the-clouds” dream world; it’s not your own aspirations. Vision is …

a) Seeing what’s possible.

b) “Seeing the invisible” as Moses did (Heb. 11:27) and the patriarchs, who saw the promises afar off, even though they themselves did not receive them (Heb. 11:13).

c) Setting realistic and achievable goals and direction.

d) A sense of optimism: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13) – i.e. the things that I am able to do and will do, I do through the strength that Christ supplies.

B. Personality Traits

By personality traits I means those personal characteristics that influence the people you lead. This is the ability to inspire others to follow and obey. This is sometimes referred to as the “power of personhood”. You can’t learn this. You either have it or you don’t. It is charisma – not artificial or superficial, but genuine and internal.

C. Success Traits

Success traits are those characteristics that drive a leader to achieve results. These include traits like self-discipline, perseverance, endurance. Pressing on despite discouragement because you can see the goal. Encouraging those on your team to go on. This comes from the internal drive to make a difference in your life. This is about motivation.

Conclusions

These five character traits determine whether a leader will make consistently good decisions, impact those he leads in a powerful way, and drive him to accomplish goals.

Part III. Sermon Outlines

To listen to the audio version of these sermons in English, click on these links: Link 1 - Jn. 20:19-21; Link 2 - Jn. 20:21-23; Link 3 - Jn. 20:24-31

Title: I’ve Just Seen Jesus

Theme: The shock and reality of the resurrection

Point #3: Jesus’ resurrection turns fear into courage (19-23)

(See the Winter 2019 version of this journal for points #1 and #2)

1. The resurrected Jesus alleviates our fears (19-20)

a) He alleviates our fears by what he says (19)

b) He alleviates our fears by what he does (20)

2. The resurrected Jesus activates our courage (21-23)

a) He activates our courage to continue his work (21)

b) He activates our courage to speak with authority (22-23)

Point #4: Jesus’ resurrection turns unbelief into faith (24-29)

1. Unbelief is not convinced by second-hand testimony (24-25a)

2. Unbelief requires concrete proof (25b-28)

a) Concrete proof is what Jesus says (26)

b) Concrete proof is what Jesus has done (27a)

3. Concrete proof demands a verdict (27b-29)

a) Belief is proven by a great confession of faith (28)

b) Faith is honoured by a great blessing from Jesus (29)

i) It’s good to see and believe (29a)

ii) It’s better to believe before seeing (29b)

Conclusions (30-31)

Related Topics: Pastors

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